Cauliflower and cheaper beer as Prague puts local tourists first

From Czech-speaking tour guides on the Charles Bridge to cheaper beer at Old Town Square pubs and traditional fried cauliflower on the menu, Prague[1] businesses that rely on tourism are looking local to survive the summer season.

Take Jan Valenta and his wife Zuzi, who spent 9 years building a food tour company catering mainly to foreigners. Their business vanished with the coronavirus crisis that shut borders worldwide and stranded tourists at home. “We built this for nine years and now we have nothing,” said Valenta, who now offers his “Taste of Prague” tours in Czech[2] and focuses on local neighbourhoods rather than Czech[3] culture.

“You don’t know how good you have it until it’s gone.” In 2019, Prague[4] hosted more than 9 million visitors, making it the fourth-most visited city in Europe[5] behind London[6], Paris[7] and Rome[8], according to Euromonitor data.

But with cobblestone streets and Baroque churches empty of the usual swarms of foreign tourists, restaurants, pubs, cafes and others are rethinking their approach and prices. “Before we wouldn’t drink in a place like this because of the tourist atmosphere and high prices,” said Petr Kopas, 56, while sipping a Pilsner at an empty Old Town Square pub that now charges four times less for a beer.

The state agency CzechTourism is also pitching in with a 350 million crown ($14.76 million) plan that includes a marketing campaign to spur domestic tourism and attract visitors from neighbouring countries. Tourism accounts for about 3 percent of the economy of the nation of 10.7 million and contributes nearly 60 percent to Prague’s overall income, leaving a big gap to fill without foreign visitors.

CzechTourism estimates the country’s tourism revenues would fall by about half in 2020 from 300 billion Czech[9] crowns ($12.65 billion) in 2019. For Prague[10], tourism stands to plummet around 60 percent to 64 billion Czech[11] crowns ($2.70 billion). “This year’s goal is to survive,” CzechTourism Director Jan Herget told Reuters.

1 2 3