With tourism on the rebound, Prague can no longer afford to be a budget destination

Newly released data shows which tourist nationalities most visited Prague and the Czech Republic this summer and why tourism must change to survive.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 10.11.2021 11:58 (updated on 10.11.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

New data from the Czech Statistical Office shows that in the third quarter of this year from July to September, Prague welcomed 41.7 percent more visitors than in the same period last year. This is still a drop of more than 53 percent compared to 2019.

“Similar to last year, with the ‘In Prague Like at Home’ program we were able to attract a number of domestic tourists and visitors from neighboring countries to the capital, mitigating the drastic effects of the pandemic on tourism,” said Councilor for Culture and Tourism Hana Třeštíková.

Over 40 percent of the 1,063,788 visitors to the capital in this time period were domestic tourists, an impressive 45.4 percent increase compared to the summer months in 2019.

“The very positive news is that the data shows an improvement compared to last year. The number of domestic guests is also a positive,” said František Cipro, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Prague City Tourism.

Still, increased numbers of domestic visitors will not fully plug the gap left by the absence of foreign tourists.

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Moving forward,the city's emphasis will be on encouraging more non-European guests with a strong interest in cultural and high-quality services to replace the cheap, boozy holidays with which Prague was often associated before Covid struck.

"Prague cannot afford to compete with other European metropolises in terms of low prices. That would set us back. The metropolis must offer quality services to keep tourists coming back. That's why, in the long term, we've been working on cultivating the tourism environment in Prague," said Cipro.

Foreign travelers tend to spend more during their stays, on accommodation, food, and other tourism-related services, than domestic holidaymakers who tend to be better aware of what constitutes good value for money in the Czech Republic.

The continued lack of foreign custom is, therefore, still causing significant economic headaches for Czech tourism businesses. Tourism unions recently warned of catastrophic losses for the industry resulting from the discontinuation of government support programs coinciding with persistently low revenues.

This summer, the Czech Republic saw five times more tourists from home than visitors from abroad, with their numbers exceeding last year's third quarter, a record from the point of view of domestic tourism, said Jan Herget, director of CzechTourism.

After domestic tourists, the largest number of visitors to the Czech capital from July to September came from Germany, Slovakia, and Poland.

The Czech Republic in general saw rocketing numbers of tourists coming from Israel after the country implemented a rapid vaccination program, which tourism leaders say demonstrates the benefits of creating clear rules favoring vaccinated people.

A surprising increase in tourists from the United States was also recorded, said Herget.

In October 2021, the Czech capital launched a new campaign to rebrand the city developing a collection of "classy souvenirs" as well as a marketing campaign featuring video spots that portray Prague as an authentic city.

"The new visual identity is intended to help present Prague as an authentic cultural metropolis, not a cheap party destination or tourist open-air museum," Petr Zeman, Chairman of Prague City Tourism's Supervisory Board said at the time of the launch.

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