Saturday, 22 November 2014

Researching Czech walking holidays

One of the great things about having my own travel business is that I have to research the product. Last year we launched our South Bohemian self-guided walks holiday in response to demand. As regulars of this blog will know I love walking in the area of South Bohemia near my home, so putting together the walks pack for the first guests was easy. I simply produced detailed directions for my favourite walks. But it hasn't stayed easy. As demand for the holidays has expanded, so has the need for walks.

One of the selling points of the holiday is that the walks pack is designed around the customers' requirements. The customers tell me what sort of walks they are looking for - how long, how difficult, what they fancy seeing - and I come up with a pack of specially selected walks. From this pack the customer can choose which walks to do and when, so I try to provide slightly more walks than they have time for. All of which means that I need a large portfolio of walks from which to make my selection. I therefore had to expand my repertoire of local walks.

Although the Czechs are keen walkers and the main footpaths are well signposted, they tend to walk in groups. Foremost in these hiking groups is the Tourist Club, a body which my friend Dasa belongs to and which is similar to the Ramblers. The leader of the walk is often a local member who actually has responsibility for maintaining the walks. This all means that there aren't the number of walks books that you find in England, and the books that do exist are not available in English and tend to offer linear walks which seem to need cars at both ends. My customers mostly use public transport and if they have a car are likely to only have one. I therefore end up designing the walks myself and checking if the walks are a) interesting and good, b) that my instructions/maps are clear and cannot be misread, and c) doable - e.g. the footpath is passable or indeed still exists. The last problem is particularly true of paths through forests, where forestry works can result in both diversions and the felling of trees carrying the footpath sign. I have, as a result of the need to check the walks, had a wonderful time all year discovering parts of my beloved adopted second homeland. As circumstances can change I will of course have to check the walks every year!

Whilst I love all this walking, the frustrating thing is that the opportunity for researching walks is limited by the snowy Czech winter. I will therefore be walking most days throughout April, so here's hoping for some lovely spring weather next year. 


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