Prague faces tourist-free Easter – again

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Jakub Ricica’s traditional Czech pub ‘Deminka’, located just behind the National Museum and a short stroll from dozens of hotels, is a magnet for the flocks of tourists who descend on Prague every year for the Easter break.

But for a second year running, the wooden chairs sit atop the tables, the beer mugs are stacked on the bar and the Pilsner taps remain dry ahead of what would normally be one of the biggest money-making weekends of the year.

“Easter is usually the first weekend in Prague where things start to get really busy, and then it just keeps going,” said Ricica, who estimates that tourists generate about 60 percent of the revenue for his pub, which was founded in 1882.

“We don’t even look at this year anymore. We hope 2022 will be year zero.”

Prague’s location in the heart of Europe, along with its fairy-tale centre of cobbled streets, Baroque architecture and castle perched on a hill overlooking the city, have made it a popular destination for long weekends such as Easter.

The Czech capital welcomed more than 9 million tourists in 2019, making it the fourth most visited city in Europe after London, Paris and Rome, according to Euromonitor International.

‘IT’S DESTROYING THEM’

The city’s economy also depends on people spending money in its restaurants, pubs and hotels. Prague accounts for 60 percent of the Czech Republic’s tourism income, Mayor Zdenek Hrib said.

“We see the big impact it has on Prague’s economy and on entrepreneurs providing services in this industry,” Hrib told Reuters, adding that 270,000 foreign tourists came to Prague during the Easter holiday in 2019 but close to zero this year. “It’s destroying them.”

People lights candles as thousands of crosses were painted on to commemorate the first anniversary of death of the first Czech COVID-19 patient, at Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, 29 March 2021. For a week, people place flowers and candles and write names of dead to pay respect to victims of the COVID-19 pandemic at an impulsive memorial place created on 22 March 2021.. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

With travel restrictions and closed borders across swathes of Europe, business owners say only vaccination campaigns will enable people to travel freely again.

At the five-star President Hotel sitting on the Vltava river, director Veronika Fajcikova said that at this time of year the hotel, shuttered since October, would normally run close to full capacity, with guests coming from around the world for the busy holiday weekend.

While the staff has used the down time to make upgrades including a rooftop bar, Fajcikova said there were no plans to re-open until the foreign tourists return.

“All hotels in Prague are usually sold out and the rates are high for Easter,” she said in the eerily quiet and empty hotel.

“After the low season you welcome the spring to come and business to increase. Now we just want to survive.”

Main Photo: People enjoy a sunny and warm weather sitting on the bank of the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

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