Prague locals tire of foreign tourists

Almost 8 million people visited the Czech capital of Prague last year, making it one of the most visited cities in Europe.

Many visitors walk around the Old Town and take photos in the Old Town Square. Prague got rich thanks to the money spent by tourists.

But now, 30 years after the Velvet Revolution ended the Communist regime, not everyone is happy with all the changes.

Filmmaker Pavel Kacirek owns an apartment in the heart of Prague. Kacirek says he loves the city, but thinks it’s not a good place to live anymore.

“People have moved, so the services, the stores… the restaurants have left with them,” he said.

“The the monuments are there … But it’s really a Disneyland decoration,” he added.

One of the biggest problems for the 1.3 million inhabitants of Prague is housing. The prices are high.

Some apartment buildings are no longer used as housing for the inhabitants of the city. Many apartments are now used as offices or accommodation for passing visitors.

Airbnb listed nearly 12,000 apartments in Prague last year, reports the Prague Development Institute IPR. The city center has lost nearly 50% of its inhabitants. In 2017, the number of registered voters stood at 21,556, up from 36,862 in 1990.

Tourists now fill the historic streets of Prague. Many stay awake late at night, buying cheap beer bars and restaurants.

“The number of tourists is certainly more than Prague can handle,” said city mayor Zdenek Hrib. He added that Prague is trying to attract spendthrift visitors, including those who come for business meetings.

“We are trying to solve the Disneyland which is evolving here, ”he told Reuters news agency.

Tourists look at the astronomical clock in Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic, November 7, 2019 (REUTERS / David W Cerny)

Benefits and problems

When communism ended in 1989, Prague was an unspoiled historic city of great beauty, but it had air pollution problems and few services. Many old buildings were in need of repair.

Billions of dollars in investment and tourism spending have made Prague the richest region in Central and Eastern Europe. He has a gross domestic product per person by 187 percent of the European Union average, according to the European Statistical System in 2018.

But Prague has changed over the past 30 years. The main tourist areas are now filled with memory shops, exchange offices and drinking establishments.

“It’s about how Prague is positioned. If we remain a cheap bar, there will be slops», Said architect Kristof Hanzlik. He lives with his family 17e century-old house, near the walls of the gardens of Prague Castle.

The city has made efforts to resolve the issue. It now has a “night mayor” who has the power to take action against people who make noise late at night.

Authorities also shut down several exchange offices that charged high rates. They plan to stop renting office space at souvenir shops and restore services to city residents. It prohibits the sale of cheap beer to young tourists from bicycles.

But for now, many Czechs are simply avoiding central Prague and remembering its once uncrowded beauty.

I am Susan Shand.

A vintage car with tourists drives through the center of Prague, Czech Republic, November 7, 2019 (REUTERS / David W Cerny)

A vintage car with tourists drives through the center of Prague, Czech Republic, November 7, 2019 (REUTERS / David W Cerny)

Reuters news agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in this story

to evolve – v. slowly change or evolve often to a better or more complex state

The data – not. facts or information usually used to estimate or plan something

memory – not. something that is kept to help remember a place you have visited

gross domestic productnm the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during a year

cheap – adj. something that doesn’t cost a lot of money

slops – not. foods that are fed to pigs and other animals

monument – not. a building or other structure erected in honor of a famous person or event

decoration nm the activity of making something more attractive

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