Prague Overtaking London As Destination For Chinese Visitors

When visiting Prague to retrace the footsteps of Franz Kafka, explore the old Jewish cemetery and even search for the Golem, an early winter’s day under gray skies and occasional drizzle would seem most fittingly appropriate. Chinese visitors – and indeed many others as well – do not mind spending a warm and sunny summer evening in the capital of the Czech Republic, as I recently witnessed on a late June day which saw the first arrival of a regular China Eastern flight from Shanghai to Prague’s Václav Havel airport.
Unnoticed by many observers, the picturesque Bohemian city of Prague, renowned for its UNESCO-listed historic center, has developed into a major destination for Chinese visitors; accordingly, the city is responsible for the majority of the almost 300,000 arrivals of Chinese citizens to the Czech Republic. This figure represents a 35 percent increase on 2014’s arrival figure and, significantly, 60,000 more Chinese arrivals than were seen by the UK over the same time period, putting Prague on a similar level with London. In terms of spending, however, London is still far ahead, despite the fact that the average Chinese visitor to Prague spends three times as much as visitors of other nationalities and are offered special, tailored services by the luxury brand shops on Pařížská Street.
The influx of Chinese visitors to Prague has been a welcome development for the Czech capital, where, as is the case in many countries, their presence is embraced as a means of compensating for the loss of spending by Russian tourists in recent years.
However, most of the average of their 2.7 days in the Czech Republic are spent in the capital’s city center. The majority of the country’s Chinese travelers are group tourists who are made to follow the well-trodden path prepared by Chinese outbound tour operators. Individual travelers, drawn by Prague’s thriving nightlife, music, and art scenes – considered comparable with Barcelona – could well travel further afield in the country, but lack the necessary information to encourage them to do so and, in any case, do not find many products and services adapted to their needs. A strong driver of the Czech capital’s rising prominence among young Chinese tourists was Prague’s starring role in 2015 Chinese box office hit Somewhere Only We Know, where the beauty of the city’s old town served as a glamorous backdrop to a romantic love story.
The challenge for the Czech National Tourism Organization, consequently, is to develop strategies that recognize the characteristics and needs of this different market segment and to support local service providers in developing and communicating reasons for Chinese visitors to stay a bit longer and to visit other destinations beyond Prague.

The historical towns of Telč and Český Krumlov, which, like Prague, are UNESCO-listed, could serve as attractive alternative options for sightseeing, while the spas of Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary provide the opportunity to put the Czech Republic on the map as a more “unique” provider of high-end wellness treatment. The Czech Republic also has a strong food and drink culture that can be well-leveraged by the tourism industry, especially if it is “event-ized” in a way that allows Chinese visitors to not only visit the world-famous brewing centers of Pilsen and České Budějovice or the wineries of Moravia but to also learn about and try their hand in the actual production of the drinks or of Bohemian dumplings.
Fortunately, both public and private stakeholders recognize the necessity of further engaging with the Chinese market. This was reflected in the positive level of participation in a CTW Chinese Tourist Welcome Training, which was organized by Experos, the COTRI Country Partner for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in addition to the EU SME Centre, a Beijing-based initiative of the European Union that supplies a wide range of practical support services to small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe, and COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute at the Hotel Ambassador overlooking the Wenceslas Square in Prague. In attendance at the training session were luxury brand retailers such as Cartier, representatives from a number of hotels and sights, and also key figures from both regional and national tourism marketing organizations from Czechia and Slovakia.

Published: http://www.forbes.com/sites/profdrwolfganggarlt/2016/07/05/prague-overtaking-london-as-destination-for-chinese-visitors/#14f08bb671fa

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