I have been wondering about blogging about the levels of tourism in Cesky Krumlov for some time now. You may think me a hypocrite for complaining about tourist numbers, having published a visitors guide to the town. But then I have always argued for sustainable tourism with visitors staying long enough to benefit the town, rather than the quick in/out visits we are getting now.
The major change we have seen over the past few years has been the massive rise in Chinese tourists, so much so that the Czech press had nicknamed the town “Činský Krumlov”. To put the issue into numbers - the town has 14,000 inhabitants but gets over a million visitors. 40% of those visitors are Chinese. But until a few years ago Chinese visitors were rare.
Most of these visitors come on day trips by bus from Prague, but when I say day trip their actual stay in the town is a lot shorter than that. The result is that the town is overburdened with tour groups who do not spend enough time here to actually make a positive impact on the local economy. The centre of the town has basically been surrendered to the tourists. Over the last fifteen years I have watched as shops serving locals have all been replaced by tourist shops, even my bank has vacated its site on the main square and moved out (it is going to be replaced by a hotel). Last year Katerina Seda, a conceptual artist-in-residence at the Egon Schiele Gallery, satirized the situation by hiring locals to live in the town centre.
The Town Council has just announced that it will be charging bus companies 1500 czk (60 Euro) for each bus visit to the town with effect from June of this year. But 1500 czk is not a lot when divided between a coach load of tourists and I doubt will have any impact on visitor numbers. But then it is hard to see what would.
The Chinese love the romantic nature of the town, so much so that Chinese tech giant Huawei is constructing a full-size replica of Krumlov's castle at its Chinese headquarters in Dongguan, just outside Shenzhen. Yes you read that right - a full-sized replica! They have as much right to enjoy the town as any other nationality, and who can blame them, but how do we balance that with the adverse impact on the town?