Interview: Czech Republic

OTDYKH Leisure team continues to work with partners and clients during the coronavirus crisis. We are undertaking a series of short interviews with international tourism boards on their experience, forecasts, recent updates and tips during forced isolation.

While Russian tourists enjoy virtual tours around galleries, museums and theatres in the Czech Republic, and the locals can already travel to resorts, we talk to Ms. Alena Kudílková, Director of National tourist office of the Czech Republic, CzechTourism Russia, Belarus & Transcaucasia, about tourism recovery measures as part of our short interview series.

Question 1. How are you feeling today? In what format do you and your colleagues continue to work?

The Moscow CzechTourism office is very small, just me and my colleague, who was forced to return home to the Czech Republic at the beginning of the pandemic. I was left here alone and had to learn to social distance like everyone else at that time. And this, believe me, is not easy. Especially for us — sociable tourism staff.

But I stay positive regarding the current situation and hopeful about the future. After all, in Europe, the first steps are already being taken to ease restrictions and there is hope that we will soon be able to go to work.

Question 2. It’s especially important now not to cut off communication with partners and clients. Could you share you experience with your Russian and international colleagues, how do you continue promoting your destination in a situation where borders are closed?

I won’t hide that the first few days at CzechTourism we were all recovering from the shock of the situation. After all, even our most experienced colleagues haven’t faced a similar situation. We all had to learn and look for new promotion and communication tools. But as they say, there is a silver lining in everything. Our social networks were enlivened by Czech language and Czech cooking courses, we posted virtual tours to the regions of the Czech Republic and live streams of concerts by Czech artists, and soon we will have a new website which we are very proud of.

I can’t say that by working remotely we are working less. On the contrary, with the help and support of our colleagues from ANTOR and ATOR, we regularly participate in virtual round tables, blogs or webinars, where we seek to inform about the current situation in the Czech Republic and thus maintain communication with travel companies.

Question 3. Forecasts are now made very carefully, but still... According to your assessment at this time, when do you expect tourist flow recovery, including from Russia?

These days this is the most asked and most unpopular question. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t ask themselves this at least once a day? We all understand that it’s a difficult answer. But looking at the situation in Europe, there is hope. Negotiations are taking place between the governments of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Hungary on opening the borders for citizens of these countries, which is very encouraging. As for opening the border and restoring tourist flow from Russia, this, of course, also depends on the epidemiological situation in Russia and on the restoration of flight connections with our country. Being an optimist, I want to believe that Czech resorts will be able to welcome the first Russian tourists in autumn, and hot mulled wine will surely be tasted at the Prague Christmas markets.

Question 4. One last question. Let’s imagine we are on the verge of ending the pandemic. Where would you personally go immediately after all borders open and transport logistics are restored?

I can honestly say that my first steps will lead me home to the Czech Republic! I already miss my family and friends. I look forward to autumn, when I hope it will be possible to return to full-time work and travel to Russian regions with seminars and workshops, because I miss interacting with my Russian colleagues and partners.