We recently visited Český Krumlov in Southern Bohemia in the Czech Republic.
It is, without doubt, a beautiful place, packed with history and culturally significant – it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status back in 1992. To give you an idea of that significance, it’s the same status awarded to the Tower of London … or the Pyramids. And we went there to explore it and to see if we can recommend it to our followers. And, unequivocally, we can.
But whilst wandering around some of the sights today, it got me wondering about critical mass. You see, whilst Czechs, Austrians and Germans know of this place, and the Chinese seem to have adopted it as a spot to visit on the Grand Tour of Central Europe, visitors from English-speaking countries are a bit few and far between. And places like Český Krumlov are faced with a chicken and egg situation. We found an under-investment in signage and interpretive content in English. This left us in one or two places feeling that we hadn’t got as much out of the town as we could have done. We left the monastery, as an example, not much the wiser than when we entered. Which was a shame as it is a beautiful complex.
Now, my business background makes me well aware of only making investments in the right places. I recognise that translation and additional signage is an investment and it is only worth allocating the funds when you have critical mass. But it seems to me that the trick is knowing the point at which you’ve reached that point. 100 visitors a year? Don’t bother. 5,000? I don’t know. But it’s vital that tourism boards and attractions work it out, so that they keep that figure growing. We would love English-speaking people to visit this wonderful town, but purely as a point of constructive feedback, we think that investment needs to be made.
But what we’ve noticed on our travels is that there is another point at which tourism needs to be wary. Venice is now so over-visited, that the Venetian population is now next to nothing. It’s turning into a theme park. In Cuba, the sky-rocketing rate of holidaymakers is creating a shortage of food (and escalating prices) for locals. And, as well as literally ruining monuments and negative impacts on local communities, we know that it’s really unpleasant to visit beautiful places with hordes of others.
Ultimately, tourism is a Goldilocks business. Not enough and you don’t have an industry. Too many and you end up destroying the very thing that attracted people in the first place.
Where have you been that has got it right? Where have you been that has got it wrong? Is there anything we can do as visitors?