People, Travel

Czech Agrotourism Gaining Steam

Czech Agrotourism Gaining SteamCzech Agrotourism Gaining Steam

Selling the concept of agrotourism to a nation of cottage lovers who spend most of their weekends in the country is not an easy task, but slowly it is taking root.

A growing number of farms in the Czech Republic are now offering more than just a weekend in the country, Daniela Lazarova writes in Radio Prague.

They entice visitors with homemade food from their own farm products, horse-riding, making homemade cheese, butter or bread, milking cows, feeding goats and a wide variety of other activities that urban dwellers are no longer familiar with.

Czech city dwellers would spend time in the country and during the 40 years of communism, country cottages provided the only means of mental escape and inspiration.

With travel abroad extremely limited, Czechs knew their own country like the back of their hand. After the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Czechs wanted to see the world and make up for the time lost and it was hard to entice them with the idea of a weekend at a farm.

Karel Havlicek, the head of the Association of Small- and Mid-Sized Entrepreneurs, says the situation is now slowly changing for the better.

“Our estimate is that there are between 500 and 700 farms in the Czech Republic offering some form of agrotourism. It is true that they still tend to rely more on foreign visitors than Czech clients.”

Czech farms are popular with German, Austrian and Dutch visitors, but after 40 years of collective farming there were many drawbacks—the country lacked the support network that makes agrotourism work: Nature trails, romantic restaurants, bike rentals and a variety of other services.

As a result, Czech farmers cannot rely on agrotourism as their sole source of income and simply provide it as an interesting side activity that may develop in time.

Jan Papez, the head of the Czech Association of Travel Agencies, says the situation is incomparable to countries with developed agrotourist industries.

“In Austria, France or New Zealand, agrotourism is a very lucrative business. In South Africa, it is on par with crop-farming or farming as such,” he said.

Czech farmers who take up agrotourism have a much harder time, but gradually the idea of spending a weekend at a farm is catching on. Schools from the big cities have started organizing day trips for children for whom a day on a farm is an exciting adventure and part of the learning process.

Families with children occasionally decide to spend a weekend on a farm and individual farms are focusing on popular hobbies and activities to attract certain groups of visitors, offering horse-riding where there are good trails for it, fishing in the country’s lake districts, giving visitors a basic course in pottery making, blacksmithing or home cooking.

The extra value is beginning to show results.