[Image: Prague Congress Centre]
[Image: Prague Congress Centre]
Prague is reinventing itself as an emerging Lesiure and MICE destination to the world. Cedok, Czech’s most experienced destination management company under the patronage of the state tourism board, invited India Tourism Review on a four-day press trip to experience the destination firsthand. Long known as a leisure destination, Prague is now positioning itself as a competitive MICE market vis-a-vis Vienna and other European markets. While the capacity to host large conventions is well in place, endeavours are on to showcase it to the world. Part II of a five part series.
*Also in the series*
In this exclusive India Tourism Review MICE interview, Lenka Žlebková, Managing Director, Prague Convention Bureau, spoke to Anu Bararia on the importance of Indian market to Prague and the efforts being made to engage the travel trade in order to attract more visitors from this emerging economic superpower.
How important is Indian market for you?
India as a source market to overseas destinations holds
tremendous potential. Three years ago we went about reviving tourism in Prague
and identifying potential markets for promoting the destination. India owing to
its booming economy and burgeoning middle class was an obvious selection. It is
a potential source market for MICE segment. We are seeing tremendous growth in
the Incentives from India since last year. In May, TATA Motors came with the
biggest ever delegation from India. It brought 1500 people for a three day
event. There are many such groups that are now showing interest in hosting
their events here. They are mostly directly in touch with the local Destination
Management Companies in Prague that specialize in Indian markets and understand
their needs and requirements well. The demand from Indian market is increasing
year on year.
Prague has predominantly come across as a leisure destination.
Are you trying to reposition it as a Mice destination now?
Yes we are.
In 2009, we established Prague Convention Bureau however MICE
had been an important segment in Prague for many years. At present, MICE
represents 20-25 per cent of tourism in the country.
Nonetheless, it is true that the image of Prague has been more
of a leisure destination. We at this moment are working together with the City
of Prague on a new strategy to showcase Prague as a Leisure and MICE
destination. Very soon, we would be able to see visible results.
Where do Indians stand in terms of travel, and MICE in Prague?
We are collating the data for each segment from India. Since the
tourist footfall from India has been nominal thus far, we have not classified
it precisely. The Czech Tourist Authority was established in India (Delhi) just
two years back. It was only since then that we began focussing on Indian market
quite a lot.
How many Indians travel to Prague each year?
Roughly, thousand. Most of them come for incentives. As of now,
India constitutes 1-2 per cent of the tourism market in Prague. To attract more
Indian tourists, we are undertaking various activities such as FAM trips for
different segments like incentives, education, press, etc. This summer, we
hosted an education-based event for 12 people from India
What exactly is being done to promote MICE from India?
The first step was to open the Czech Tourism Office in India.
Through this we could work more closely with the Embassy, the Ambassador, and
the partner agencies selling European products.
We also went in for advertisements for FAM trips and Press
trips. We have hosted a couple of trips since summer already and there will be
more in November.
For the first time ever, the City of Prague is financing
marketing campaigns for MICE to attract tourists from all over the globe.
Earlier it was only for leisure. We selected 15 top source markets, mostly from
Europe and USA, but we expect some footfalls from India as well.
Our strategy is predominantly direct sales based on extensive
research on potential clients and markets. We provide interested parties with
as much information about Prague as would help them understand the city inside
out and facilitate their stay with us. We invite travel trade and media for FAM
trips to showcase what the city has to offer, so that when they go back, they
promote it in the best way they can. The trips are mainly sponsored by the City
of Prague and organized by DMCs such as Cedok and others.
Do you individually organize FAM trips?
No, we play a supportive role either for the DMCs or the Indian
travel agents who consult us directly. Our budget as a convention bureau is
quite limited. We are a non-profit organization. We don’t play a direct role in
organizing trips. We offer help largely in sight inspections. The key demand
comes from clients, hosted buyers and trip organizers, and some from corporates
How is Prague positioned vis-a-vis its neighbours?
We are aggressively competing with other European cities. For
example, for TATA Motors we were competing with Vienna and winning the
delegation was a big achievement because Vienna is an established MICE market.
Beating it proved reasonably well how we are turning out as a competitive MICE
destination for India.
How do you see the MICE segment growing?
There is 12 per cent growth in meetings and 14 per cent growth
in the number of participants since last year. Tourist footfalls from across
the world are increasing year on year.
We have a bigger share of conventions than Vienna because of our
long tradition – of more than 20 years – of holding large medical,
pharmaceutical and scientific conventions.
We have over 900,000 MICE tourists in town. According to Czech
Statistical Office, there are only around 600,000 (Over 400,000 in 2011) as
they collect date of only conferences in hotels and not convention centres,
town halls, etc.
Out of the total MICE, we have roughly had 10,000 Indians for
incentives and conferences.
How important is India as a market for you?
As of now, it is a potential market, not a targeted one.
However, we see it emerging as a very strong market in future.
Can you highlight the facilities you have in Prague for MICE?
The most important and the biggest facility we have in the city
for hosting large conventions is Prague Congress Centre. It has 70 halls and a
capacity of 10,000 people.
We have over 36,000 hotel rooms and 80,000 beds. There are over 600 hotels ranging from
one star to five star and deluxe luxury in five stars to charming boutique
hotels in three-five star categories. We have more five stars, over 38, than
Vienna. There are over 400 hotels in four – three star categories and over 200
in two-one star.
Compared to other European markets, the accommodation is value
for money. For corporates and incentives, Hilton has a capacity of upto 4000 in
33 halls – the biggest one can accommodate over 1300 people; four-star Clarion
Congress Hotel can hold upto 2400 in 27 halls, the biggest one can hold upto
1500. Marriot, IHG, and other chain hotels like Sheraton, Radisson, etc., have
room for 250-500 people each in their biggest halls.
Indians also love to go on Boats for MICE and we offer that
facility as well. So the capacity is absolutely well in place.
Do you attribute the growth in tourism to movies shot in Prague
Absolutely! We have had several movies shot in Prague such as
Hollywood’s Mission Impossible and
Bollywood’s Rockstar. They have
definitely helped in promoting Prague as a premium tourist destination. We are
even showcasing the places in these movies on FAM trips to further boost
What kind of challenges do you face in catering to Indian
Since we have predominantly dealt with European travellers, we
are yet to be fully accustomed to Indian needs and requirements with respect to
the food, accommodation, pricing, packages, etc. Unlike their European
counterparts, Indians are slightly less adventurous with the food and spending.
Therefore, we are now insisting our DMCs to tailor their packages according to
the Indian needs.
Another challenge we face is that Indians are very price
conscious and consider various distribution channels before choosing a place.
Owning to the long stretched process, many a times, we do not see travel
materializing. We are working upon simplifying the channels and removing the
bottlenecks to facilitate more tourism from this potential market. Once we
succeed in doing that, the relations seem long term.