By Ayan Abbasli, Suzanne Bessisso, Ines Plunger, Dominika Szapuova and Daniel Holko
Prague businesses are optimistic for a return to a normal summer season with early signs tourists have started to return to one of the most visited destinations in Europe after two years of pandemic-limited travel.
With most COVID restrictions lifted across Europe, the city’s hotels are filling up, visitors are crowding the Charles Bridge, lining up to enter the Prague Castle overlooking the Vltava river and sampling the country’s world-famous Pilsner beer.
At Bakeshop, located in the heart of the Old Town, owner Martin Hofman said tour guides are bringing an increasing number of foreign tourists looking to refuel at his upscale American-style deli, also popular with students and workers in the film industry.
He and others remain cautiously optimistic about the summer but worry that fast-rising inflation, the war in Ukraine and a post-pandemic hangover could throttle summer travel.
“May, so far, seems to be really strong,” Hofman said. “It seems that more young and wealthy people are travelling.”
Tourism is a key growth engine for the Central European Country of 10.7 million, accounting for about 8% of the Czech economy with Prague as the nation’s top destination.
Revenue from visitors is especially important in the Czech capital, which ranks as the fourth most visited city in Europe behind London, Paris, and Rome.
Foreign visits started picking up during the Easter Holiday, with more overseas travelers – especially from the United States — asking for information at city tourism offices, Klara Mala, a spokeswoman for Prague City Tourism said.
“The upcoming season is extremely important for local businesses to get back on their feet,” Mala said. “Many businesses disappeared and the rest survived with difficulty.”
At the Globe Bookstore, owner Michael Sito sees an increasing number of foreign visitors returning with many asking for recommendations and sipping coffee while browsing their guidebooks. The café started offering brunch during the weekdays to attract the growing number of mostly European travelers.
“May is a good start but we expect the summer to be stronger,” Sito said while sitting at the café that also boasts one of the largest selection of English books in Prague. “We have seen growth from last year because fear of Covid has passed.”