Are tourists facing 'backlash' in Prague?

CNN lumps Prague in with Barcelona and Venice as being fed up with tourists

Over the summer, protests against tourism took place in Spain, and people in Venice complained that giant tour ships were causing the city to be overrun.

The anti-tourism sentiment has spread to Prague, at least according to US-based news channel CNN. But the evidence they give is a bit questionable. They cite the new anti-conflict teams patrolling the city center at night as evidence, but overlook that the teams were put in place as a result of the new anti-smoking law that put pub patrons on the sidewalk at night. The teams did not operate in much of August, a peak tourism month, as many residents were on vacation. Also, the teams are not directed at tourists specifically, but also at residents who make noise at night.

“Prague is among the most visited cities on the continent, welcoming 5.8 million tourists last year, according to Mastercard. The city's beer culture makes it one of the most popular destinations for bachelor parties and pub crawls, much to the dismay of local residents,” CNNMoney reporter Ivana Kottasová writes.

“There haven't been protests. But Prague authorities in May hired a special 'anti-conflict' team, which patrols the busiest areas at night asking tourists to respect the official 'night quiet time' which starts at 10 p.m.,” she stated.

Noise in the center has been an issue for years, and efforts to reduce it are nothing new.

The CNN article, though, overlooks a more recent issue. People buying flats to use for short-term rentals like Airbnb has driven up housing prices. It also costs the city a lot of revenue in unpaid tourism taxes, which hotels pay based on occupancy. But the concern that local people have isn't with tourists, but their method of accommodation.

Full-time residents living in buildings with Airbnb flats have also complained about noise, excessive trash and other issues. City Hall is looking at ways to limit the use of private flats as short-term rentals, in line with actions taken in other cities such as Amsterdam and New York.

The number of hotel and hostel rooms is sufficient to handle tourists, according to City Hall.

Other issues such as Segway tours, which bothered local residents due to the narrowness of streets, have been resolved through legislation.

Prague City Hall has been trying to balance the concerns of residents, while still remaining friendly to tourism, which a main driver of the local economy. More spaces in Prague Castle are being opened to the public to handle the increased flow of tourists, and CzechTourism has been promoting regional destinations in the country.

And while it seems a minor point, fireworks are now severely limited in the city center to several specified holidays and events. They used to occur almost daily in the summer for private events such as parties and weddings, but the noise disturbed pets and waterfowl.

While there are concerns, the residents of Prague have not been exhibiting any more anti-tourist sentiment recently than they have in the past. It is a bit of an overstatement to say “backlash has been on full display” in Prague, as CNN claims.

The other cities names in the CNN report are Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik.

According to the report, Venice is taking steps to curb tourism. In Venice, which faces some unique infrastructure challenges, the impact of heavy tourism has caused the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to express “extreme concern.” There have been protests related to pollution from big cruise ships and the rising cost of living, CNN states. The city has launched an education campaign on proper behavior and is also taking steps to limit food stands and new hotel rooms.

Barcelona has seen protests by residents this summer due to too many tourists, especially in residential areas. The city is limiting new hotel construction in the downtown area and putting a limit on private rentals of flats. Money from tourism will be redirected to city services used by residents.

Dubrovnik has had an increase of tourism due to the TV series Game of Thrones, which is partly shot there. The city has faced pedestrian congestion on occasions when multiple ships of tourists arrived at the same time. The city is seeking to limit the number of ships, according to CNN, and also installing security cameras to monitor traffic from tourists.

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