07 DEC 2009: CzechTourism Canada and the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Toronto, recently held an Appreciation Night on the occasion of the 10th year Celebration of Successful Operation of CzechTourism Canada. The event was well attended with participants from the trade, tour operators, airlines and media.

Mirjana Sebek-Heroldova, Director, Czech Tourist Authority, welcomed guests and highlighted the growth of tourism to the Czech Republic from Canada over the last ten years. Prior to 1999 promotional efforts had been only marginally successful. Then in 1999, William Baxter founder of Baxter Publications, suggested opening the Czech Tourist Board together with the Czech National Airline to more effectively introduce the Czech Republic to Canadians. Accepting that advice turned out very well.

Sebek-Heroldova had operated an export/import business between Canada and the Czech Republic. In 1999 she was offered – and accepted – the position of promoting CzechTourism together with the Czech Airlines in their Toronto office. The results have been very positive. In 1999 - 20,000 Canadians visited the Czech Republic. By 2006-2007 that number had climbed to over 100,000.

Fam and Press Trips – also critical to that growth.

Sebek-Heroldova says the first 3-4 years were largely an “educational process.” While there were brochures and general information on the Czech Republic for the travel trade, it was the Fam/Media Trips – that had the greatest impact.

Once agents and media “experienced” the Czech Republic they returned to Canada with the knowledge and enthusiasm to sell the destination effectively. During those years CzechTourism developed – and continues to maintain - a strong liaison with SATW and TMAC. This has resulted in many published travel articles on the Czech Republic – further contributing to the growth in numbers.

Unfortunately Canada lost direct flights with Czech Airlines two years ago. However, CzechTourism continues to work with all airlines – Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Air France, Air Canada included, for air into Europe (Amsterdam, Vienna, etc.) and then a connecting short hop flight to the Czech Republic.

We met with Sebek-Heroldova and posed a few specific questions:

What areas or market segments are you focusing on in 2010?

“In 2010 we are concentrating on regional tourism � and also on weddings, golf, spas � and Meeting Incentive Corporate Travel. The Czech Republic has so much to offer in history, culture, music, sights, spas. The emphasis used to be on Prague � but we are now going for family holidays.”

For first time visitors -- what is the best time of the year to visit Czech Republic?

“�spring, summer fall and winter. The Czech Republic has a milder climate than Canada.”

Where would you place the cost of a one week trip to the Czech Republic when comparing a similar trip to other possible destinations throughout Europe?

“There are very good packages. We are very fortunate because we are not on the Euro yet. We are on the Czech crown. If you come to the Czech Republic it’s like buying something for Euros in price and paying in crowns. It’s very good value!”

Are there any programmes, Fams etc. specifically for travel agents that you would like to share?

“Travel agents will be receiving a 2009-2010 Sales Guide. We will be having a Fam trip and a Press Trip. Stay in touch with us via – www.czechtourism.com

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Derrick Bloch

A regular contributer to Travel Industry Today, Derrick has been recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 80 travel agents in North America. 

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