Restrictions, traffic lights and a mutated virus have put the brakes on a well-paced tourist season in recent days. In addition, some clients are opting to fly out of countries such as Germany for fear of quarantine.
“We have been warning about this for a long time, but the Ministry of Health is deaf. In the long term, we want our ministry to use the Robert Koch Institute, which guides the German government, to make decisions. Then we would have similar rules and there would be no reason to circumvent them.” says Jan Papež, vice-chairman of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Czech Republic.
“We are very interested in how the Ministry of Health divides countries into individual groups. We think that this division does not reflect the actual epidemic situation in individual countries.” says Jiří Jelínek, head of Fischer and Exim Tours from DER Touristik EE.
According to him, Czech entities and Czech citizens are at a disadvantage. “In fact, I am not surprised that many people get into a car, fly out of Germany and then do not enter quarantine. I’m not saying it’s according to the rules, but they take advantage of the fact that the rules are different in Germany,” Jelínek said.
Travel agencies estimate that hundreds to thousands of people may fly abroad. However, the vast majority of tourists still choose to fly from Prague, Brno or Ostrava.
“Currently, Czech tourists clearly prefer departures from Prague, Brno and Ostrava, i.e. with Czech travel agencies. Due to frequently changing travel conditions, the main reasons are a Czech-speaking delegate at the place of stay, information service and assistance of the travel agency in Czech. Another negative factor playing in favour of Czech departure airports is the very expensive parking at the airport. This applies to Vienna, for example,” says Kateřina Chaloupková from the Association of Czech Travel Agencies.
The most popular destinations for the German tour operator Airstop are Greece, Turkey, Spain with the Canary Islands and Egypt. However, they are not seeing a significant increase in interest at the moment.
“From our point of view, there has been basically no tightening of the conditions for return in the Czech Republic, for example compared to the tightening of the conditions for return to Slovakia. The sales curve is developing similarly to two years ago, only it is about a third lower,” says Jaromír Matoušek from Airstop.
Slowing down a busy season
However, the frequently changing conditions, the uncertainty of tourists and new mutations of the virus are now spoiling a good season, according to travel agencies.
“Before the start of the holiday season, we were selling 33% more tours than in 2019. Now the interest is weaker and the numbers are the same as in 2019,” confirms Jiří Jelínek. It is not always just about changes issued by the Czech state.
Last time, Malta surprised tourists with rules, where only fully vaccinated travellers – including children from 12 years of age – will now be allowed to go.
The Pokorny family was also planning a trip there. “Apart from our 13-year-old daughter, we will be fully vaccinated at the time of departure. My daughter is waiting for her first dose, as children could only be registered from July. She will therefore not be fully vaccinated until the beginning of September. Therefore, we cannot meet the Maltese conditions. Nor could we ever actually meet them. Unfortunately, cancellation insurance does not cover such a reason,” says Barbora Pokorná.
She stresses that the family approached vaccinations responsibly and always registered all household members for vaccinations as soon as possible. Despite this, they are now unable to travel and have no one to ask for reimbursement of their air tickets.
“We wonder if the Ministry of Health is trying to somehow change these illogical and unfair rules and allow a PCR test at least for children aged 12 to 15. If the PCR test was positive and we cancelled the flight for this reason, then the insurance company would accept it,” Pokorná said.