Firm questions holiday market selection procedure

A new bidder to run the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square markets has been excluded

The holiday markets are two months away, and it is still uncertain which company will operate them on Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. The city is currently holding a bidding process for both the Christmas and Easter markets.

Six companies applied and three were selected for the first round — Taiko, Farmářské trhy and Zahrada Čech. Taiko has operated the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square markets since 2004 and also operates Žluté lázně. Farmářské trhy, which runs weekly farmers markets, has run holiday markets in other locations. Zahrada Čech is based in Litoměřice in the Ústí nad Labem region and organizes gardening fairs there.

But the Prague city administration only selected Taiko and Farmářské trhy for consideration in the second round, where companies have to make a lease offer and submit a bank guarantee.

Zahrada Čech claims it was excluded from the competition even though it was willing to offer more than its competitors. The city administration has declined to give any reason, claiming it cannot comment on a process once it is under way. City spokesman Vít Hofman said the winner would be known by the end of month.

Zahrada Čech representatives said they have been trying to get an explanation since Aug. 31 but have not been successful. Zahrada Čech business manager Michaela Mokrá told the daily Metro that the company's proposal was in order, and if the company does not get a response it will seek to resolve the situation a different way.

Taiko has been recently been paying an annual rent of Kč 4 million per year to run the markets.

Zahrada Čech's legal executive Lukáš Wünsch said he told the city council he would pay Kč 6 million, which amounts to 50 percent more.

The markets are a major tourist attraction in the holiday season. Prague City Tourism reports that its social media postings about the Christmas market receive the highest number of likes and shares of a any event in the year.

Readers of the newspaper USA Today named Prague's Old Town Square as the most beautiful Christmas destination in the world in an online poll in 2015. The market has also made lists in the UK newspapers the Daily Mail, Express and the Mirror, as well as the Irish newspaper The Independent.

Traditionally, the lighting of the Christmas tree at the start of advent is a big draw for tourists but last year it was scaled back due to security concerns, although there was no specific threat.

In recent years the Old Town Square tree has been selected with sustainability in mind. Usually a tree that will be cut down anyway is chosen, and a number of replacement trees are planted.

The markets include small petting zoos and live entertainment, as well as stands with holiday presents, food and beverages.

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