Katerina Setunska of CzechTourism explains why the current situation gives us an opportunity to learn and then rebuild after the lockdown
When we want a taste of freedom, we grab a friend, a backpack and a tent and go for a hike.
CzechTourism is encouraging travellers to Plan Today, Czech In 2021 by creating a guide to the top 21 things to do in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has been attracting wellness travellers for centuries and its spa traditions are among the oldest in Europe
Katerina Setunska of CzechTourism explains why the current situation gives us an opportunity to learn and then rebuild after the lockdown
From the cobbled streets of Prague Old Town to the dense forests of Šumava National Park, the spas of Karlovy Vary and, of course, the world’s best beer, the Czech Republic offers wonders in abundance. With its beguiling capital just a two-hour flight from the UK, it makes perfect sense as a first post-lockdown destination for Britons to visit.
We spoke to Katerina Setunska, trade manager at CzechTourism UK & Ireland, about how the tourist board is working with travel agents during these troubling times – and what Czech attractions she’s most looking forward to returning to.
How are you reassuring the trade during this time?
The most important thing for us is the safety of the tourists and visitors coming back to the Czech Republic – that is above all. When the time is right we will be more than happy to welcome everyone again. To lighten the atmosphere we have teamed up with Czech partners and focused on a promotion aimed at armchair travellers to experience “a taste of the Czech Republic” from the comfort of their own homes amid the current quarantine. For that, we have launched a B2C campaign called Virtual Czech, with the hashtags #VirtualCzech and #CheersFromCzech. On May 7, we are also aiming to bring the biggest ever Mic Czech event the travel industry has ever experienced. See our Facebook page for more info at facebook.com/czechrepublic.
What was your favourite moment with the trade in 2019?
In 2019, we launched our second course on Online Travel Training (OTT) targeted at the LGBT segment, mainly promoting the three biggest cities – Prague, Brno and Ostrava – as destinations open to all while partnering with Prague Pride, one of the largest cultural events in Prague since 2011. We have also launched our first virtual fam trip, VFam, taking absolutely everyone who is interested on an exciting six-day journey through regions of the Czech Republic.
Non-digital favourite moments include a spa and golf fam trip taking place in the west of Bohemia and a Travel Trade Roadshow that introduced 12 Czech trade partners to the trade in London, Manchester and Dublin.
While they can’t visit, how can the trade find out more about the Czech Republic?
We’re focusing on digital marketing at the moment as the situation changes every minute. We’re polishing our e-learning tools and making sure they stay fresh, updated and informative for anyone who wants to keep up.
Webinars are another way of effectively communicating with the trade; today we’ve had one with AITO, introducing Czech regions and some of its hidden secrets, such as efficient public transport, local regional gastronomy, wine and beer trails and mountain biking (single-tracks), plus our marketing themes for 2021 and beyond. These include a continuation of the trend of sustainable tourism marketing, working with regional partners and promoting the local authentic experiences and the unique traditions of the destination.
How is the Czech tourism board preparing for the post-lockdown world?
We’re preparing for the new business environment to come as much as we can. That means we have to be ready to face new challenges and able to adapt quickly. We have to take into account the uncertainty and new safety precautions.
As much as the current situation is extremely devastating, it gives us a chance to learn and become stronger. Speaking of the situation in the Czech Republic, domestic tourism is now expected to pop up over the coming weeks. Working with our PR agency AM+A Marketing & Media Relations has also helped boost our brand message and online engagement. By utilising their creativity we’ve done some brilliant online marketing activities with third-party partners.
Which Czech attractions are you most looking forward to visiting?
Hiking in Šumava National Park, having a glass of local white wine in one of the South Moravian wine cellars or an evening stroll through the Old Town in Prague are some of my most favourite things to do in the Czech Republic.
Why should the Czech Republic be the first place Britons visit?
The main reasons are its great accessibility and position as a short-distance destination; its high-quality, low-cost services; its extremely efficient public transport systems and great accommodation; the wealth of regional attractions with options for both summer and winter; and, of course, we still have the best beer in the world.
© CzechTourism – Image Bank, Photo: UPVISION
CzechTourism is encouraging travellers to Plan Today, Czech In 2021 by creating a guide to the top 21 things to do in the Czech Republic this year. CzechTourism hopes to provide some travel inspiration for the new year from exploring Prague on a shoestring with the Prague Unlocked discount scheme to heading off the beaten track to discover the Czech Republic’s EDEN locations.
1. Charming castles and curious chateaux
In 2021, CzechTourism will be showcasing lesser-known castles and chateaux around the Czech Republic. We all know how spectacular the likes of Prague Castle and Karlstejn are, but there are over 200 unique regal locations to be uncovered off the beaten track, from the ‘open-air textbook of architecture’ Hradec Kralove to the delicate flower gardens of Kromeriz.
2. Wonderful ‘workcations’, a new normal we can get behind
One thing Covid-19 has taught us is that the need to be in an office every day from 9-5 is not as necessary as it seems. In need of a change of scenery from your office / bedroom hybrid? The Czech Republic is an ideal destination for ‘workcations’, with its central location, great value restaurants and bars and tranquil scenery. Rural Bohemia and Moravia are the perfect places to stay for month-long experiences – both have excellent transport connections and plenty of holiday house options.
3. Explore the Capital on a Shoestring with ‘Prague Unlocked’
Prague City Tourism and CzechTourism are offering discounts on visitor attractions and experiences with the Prague Unlocked scheme. When booking with the scheme’s accommodation partners, travellers receive vouchers based on group size and duration of stay. These vouchers can be used on some of Prague’s best attractions including the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague Zoo and guided city tours.
4. Discover your own personal EDEN
Take the road less travelled and find your own personal paradise. Discover the Czech Republic’s European Destinations of Excellence, offering more authentic, sustainable and meaningful experiences. Hike through the wild beauty of Bohemian Switzerland’s rocky National Park, revitalise both the body and mind at Luhacovice’s traditional spas or sip on local wines from the vineyards of Moravia.
5. Revitalise in Europe’s medical spa capital
The Czech Republic is home to more than 30 spas located across the country’s diverse landscapes. The Czech Republic’s spa offering boasts some of the oldest and most spectacular in Europe. The country’s spa industry is home to top balneology experts, highly qualified medical staff and the highest number of certificate holders among EU member states.
6. Cycle along 40,000km of unforgettable Czech trails
The Czech Republic is criss-crossed by a staggering 37,000km of cycle routes. With constantly improving facilities along the way including restaurants, bike servicing centres, accommodation and information boards, it has never been easier to enjoy the iconic Czech landscape. From the 370km Elbe Cycle Route and the fascinating Iron Curtain trail, the longest EUROVELO route, to Moravian Wine Trails, there are routes for all ages, capabilities and interests.
7. Discover the best kept wine secret of Europe
South Moravia is the Czech Republic’s largest wine region, accounting for 96 per cent of the country’s vineyards. In addition to wine festivities, festivals, and harvest, you can, for example, journey along one of the many wine trails and enjoy the picturesque scenery by either foot or bike.
8. A magical Czech winter: markets, skiing and fairy tale castles
Capture the yule-tide spirit at Prague’s world-famous Christmas market or the fairy tale, Unesco-listed Český Krumlov. Chase thrills amongst the snowy peaks of the Krkonoše Mountains and find the country’s longest ski slopes and best resorts, topped off with breath-taking views.
9. Czech’s young, happening cities: Brno, Ostrava and a different side of Prague
Discover the Czech cities that have undergone a fundamental transformation in recent years. Visit Ostrava, the steel heart of the Czech Republic, the stylish capital of Moravia, Brno, and Prague’s Bohemian district: Art District 7. Creativity has no limits there. Life there is real and people are real, too.
10. Celebrate spa season in some of Europe’s oldest spa towns
Every May, the Czech spa season kicks off with a host of ceremonies to open the spa season in West Bohemia. Experience the official opening of the springs in Marianske Lazne, where traditional costumes and a series of cultural events take over the ancient town. In Karlovy Vary, guests can witness the blessing of the mineral springs, complete with a centuries old parade led by the city’s founder Emperor Charles IV on horseback.
11. Complete Czech’s Unesco trail
Can you ‘Czech’ out all 14 Unesco Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic? Home to over twice the world average, highlights include the Historic Centres of Prague, Cesky Krumlov and Telx, the stunning Modernist Villa Tugendhat in Brno and the two most recent additions: The Krusnohori Mining Region and the National Stud Farm at Kladruby nad Labem.
12. Mountains are best explored on two wheels
With a wealth of diverse landscapes, favourable conditions and varying terrain, the Czech Republic makes for an adrenaline filled mountain biking trip. Ideal for clearing your mind after months of lockdown. From the top-rated Peklak bike park and resort in Ceska Trebova, to the mountain bike mad locals of Trutnov trails, mountain biking is a way of life in the Czech Republic.
13. Uncovering a Bohemian Paradise: Unesco Geopark and Krkonose
For centuries the Bohemian Paradise area has attracted painters, writers, artists, and dreamers of all kinds. Discover this unique combination of bizarre rock formations, deep pine forests, majestic castles and sublime villages of timber cottages, losing yourself for a moment in the labyrinth that is the Bohemian Paradise area.
14. Saddle up for the world’s oldest horse race in East Bohemia
The Grand Pardubice Steeplechase, one of the world’s oldest horse races, is held every second Sunday in October at the Pardubice Racecourse. Known as the world’s most difficult race, the Czech equivalent of the Grand National is an insight into one of the country’s most unique traditions. East Bohemia is famous for its horses, so you’ll discover more at the Unesco Heritage Site Kladruby, famous for its breed of carriage horse the “Kladruber”.
15. Learn the secrets of South Bohemia, a historic gem
Home to a diverse variety of cultural and historic gems, South Bohemia is the land of fairy tale chateaux, ancient forests and rural farmland. Live as Czech noble families once did in the glittering ballrooms and gothic spires of Hluboka Castle. Soak up the tranquil silence along the banks of the glistening Lipno Reservoir or ascend into the leafy canopies at Lipno tree walk.
16. The Czech Republic from tee to green
Tee it high and let it fly, the Czech Republic is Europe’s most underrated golfing destination. From the Kyle Phillips-designed, soon-to-be completed PGA National Czech Republic on the outskirts of Prague, to the European Tour-designated Albatross Golf Resort, the Czech Republic is bursting with fantastic courses, breathtaking scenery and welcoming hospitality.
17. Europe’s gold standard of brewing tradition
The Czech Republic is home to one of Europe’s oldest and proudest brewing traditions. Take a sip of history at the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, where the world’s first pilsner lager was brewed in 1842. The city of Pilsen also hosts an annual microbrewery festival that is something of a pilgrimage for beer lovers across Europe. Still thirsty? Head to Budejovice and explore the Budweiser Budvar brewery (the original Budweiser), where Czech lager has been lovingly crafted for 125 years.
18. A festival for every kind of fan
The Czech Republic has a packed and extremely diverse annual festival schedule. From one of the country’s most important cultural celebrations, Prague Spring, and the globally recognised International Music Festival Cesky Krumlov, to completely unique events against stunning backdrops such as the Colours of Ostrava music festival and Hrady CZ. Whatever you look for in a festival, you will find in the Czech Republic in 2021.
19. Beautiful buildings for architecture adventurers
The Czech lands have long been an important centre of architectural and urbanistic experiments. Whether it’s Art Nouveau, Modernist or Gothic, the Czech Republic’s diverse architectural offering is a genuine marvel. Head to Brno, a living gallery of functionalism and explore the UNESCO-protected Modernist classic that is Villa Tugendhat for just a small taste of the country’s architectural excellence.
20. Explore one of the biggest Jewish heritage collections in Europe
Many Jewish sites have been preserved in the Czech Republic, attracting tourists from all over the world. The Jewish Cemetery, Klausen Synagogue, Old New Synagogue, and the Jewish Ghetto in Prague, as well as the unique Jewish quarter in Třebíč (registered on the Unesco World Heritage List) offer rich history, beautiful traditions and important lessons to be learned.
21. Fall in love with the industrial heart of the Czech Republic
The beating coal, iron and steel heart of the Czech Republic, Ostrava is the city that kickstarted the industrial and technological development of the country. The industrial architecture of mining towers, furnaces and the iconic skyline of the Vitkovice Ironworks are an unforgettable experience. The Colours of Ostrava Festival is a huge music festival that takes place in the shadow of the steelworks, highlighting the city’s transition from industrial, to cultural powerhouse.
There’s more to the Czech Republic than Prague. Mark Smith travels around the traditional spa towns to take in the waters, bathe in beer and enjoy wellness techniques hundreds of years old
The Czech Republic has been attracting wellness travellers for centuries and its spa traditions are among the oldest in Europe. The country is renowned for its spa towns which offer a unique take on the spa experience, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the therapeutic powers of the natural mineral water, mud, peat, natural gases and fresh country air. A complete contrast to the spa culture in the UK, the historical buildings and rich history make this a must-visit for anyone who loves to spa.
Steeped in tradition, the spas have been treating conditions like digestive, skin and respiratory problems through to cardiovascular and oncological issues since the 18th century. The spas combine a health and medical approach as standard, and spa facilities can be found in more than 30 locations throughout the country. There are strict standards governing the spas ensuring the very best of wellness therapies to heal, treat, nurture and pamper. It’s a total escape where you can combine the benefits of the natural world with great food, outdoor adventures and a range of sport and fitness activities like hiking and cycling.
Traditional spa towns
The spa towns dotted across the countryside are picture-perfect and the most impressive is the fairy tale-like town of Karlovy Vary. Surrounded by forest and positioned overlooking the River Teplá it’s an ideal place to take the waters. There are 15 warm mineral springs that can treat anything from digestive conditions to metabolic disorders, diabetes and gout. Check in to the Hotel Imperial located on a hill above the town where the thermal waters flow directly into this five-star hotel. You are guaranteed a healthy holiday as it has over 50 medical employees, including 24-hour nurses, therapists and masseurs.
If you are looking for something a little less medical then head to the Beer Spa in the centre of Karlovy Vary, where you can bathe in wooden tubs, in a mixture of brewer’s yeast, hops, malt and peat extract. All the while helping yourself to unlimited locally brewed beer. It finishes up with time to chill on a bed of straw.
Next on your destination list should be Teplice Spa, said to be the oldest spa in central Europe, dating back to the 12th century. Situated between the Ore Mountains and the Central Bohemian Uplands it specialises in treating musculoskeletal ailments.
The town of Mariánské Lázně has over 100 mineral springs with cool water that boasts a high content of iron and mineral salt. Ingesting, bathing and inhaling are all essential rituals here with cycleways and walking paths allowing some outdoor adventures among beautiful architecture. Finally, the small town of Luhačovice, set in a peaceful valley features 13 potent, mineral-rich springs which are beneficial for respiratory problems and musculoskeletal issues. So, on your next visit, bypass Prague and head straight to the peaceful surroundings of the Czech countryside.
You won’t be disappointed.
Beer Spa: pivnilazne-kv.cz
Czech Tourism: czechtourism.com