Tourism is key for the Czech economy – before the crisis, it employed 250,000 people and generated over CZK 150 billion GDP a year.
The sector has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic as more than 10 million international tourists will not visit the Czech Republic this year and even popular establishments keep shutting down.
We need to support the sector and we have the opportunity to do so. Millions of Czechs planned to go on holiday abroad this year and most of them canceled summer travel plans.
The Czech Republic offers many opportunities for a beautiful holiday, and this year a visit to Prague without crowds of tourists can be a much better experience than it used to be, or will ever be. But we definitely don’t want everyone to only visit Český Krumlov and a few top locations.
It is necessary to inspire domestic tourists to vacation in the Czech Republic and show them that there are many interesting places that they have not visited yet. Let’s Explore Czech!
Let’s be careful though. Tourists from all around mingling in crowded groups and traveling home before they even show symptoms of Covid-19 provide an ideal breeding ground for the virus. Overcrowding was unpleasant and caused damage to popular sights even before Covid-19 hit. Addressing it is now an absolute necessity if we want to avoid further waves of the pandemic without killing the travel sector.
A Prague-based startup SmartGuide developed a solution for Smart Restart. “We are teaching your phone to guide you like a live guide,” wrote CEO Jan Doležal.
The virtual tour guide app guides tourists safely from their phones at their own pace instead of following a tour group. It learns a user’s interests and starts to recommend different places based on what they like. This helps spread tourists more evenly across destinations instead of everyone going to the same few top sights. Personalized tours to more authentic neighborhoods filled with interesting stories are more fun for the tourist on top of being more safe and sustainable.
SmartGuide became successful abroad with over 200,000 users and guides in 400 destinations, including official guides for Harvard, Deutsche Bahn, and the entire country of Kyrgyzstan. “We saw how CzechTourism struggles developing its own apps for taxpayers money so we offered them SmartGuide for free. This was well received by the government, but CzechTourism’s CEO Jan Herget declined to even publish CzechTourism’s content openly for anyone who wants to promote the country to ‘keep CzechTourism competitive.’ That is unbelievable!” said Doležal.
SmartGuide did not give up and works directly with attractions and destinations to digitize their guides. Prague City Tourism, Mariánské Lázně, Karlštejn, Průhonický Park, ZOO Plzeň, Šterberk castle, the Crystal Valley region and others already published their smartguides.
“Last week we launched a new official guide for Terezín and plan to publish a unique tour of Lednice soon,” said content manager Jan Hlavatý, who used to be a professional guide in Prague himself.
To increase coverage faster, SmartGuide is also planning to open up its content management system to local guides in July so they can publish and sell their guided tours virtually on the platform. “As a guide, I always wished to have a passive income. Repeating the same story 1,000 times is no fun. But this story was my biggest asset that I did not want to trash. SmartGuide will allow guides to do what I wished for when I was one of them.” Hlavatý recommends checking out the new Jewish Quarter tour for Prague.
Prague Morning readers can get the premium version of the Prague smartguide for free here