As the Covid-19 pandemic forces us to rethink our lifestyle, more than 30 local organisations called on the Prague city hall, the local municipalities and the Prague Institute for Urban Planning and Development (IPR) to launch public discussions to debate the city’s future.
Among other suggestions, the signatories of this public manifesto for a sustainable and neighbourly Prague urge municipal authorities to take action to limit mass tourism, abandon plans plans to expand Prague airport and improve housing accessibility.
The original text in Czech, available here, has been translated in English with their consent.
At the beginning of March, when the coronavirus pandemic erupted in Czechia, Prague showed a new, non-touristic face. The hustle we were used to stopped. Bars and restaurants which were not accessible to local residents were closed, streets emptied, and tourist attractions disappeared from the public space.
Apartments which were until recently used as illegal tourist housing gradually came back on the market. The city center, which Prague residents usually make a habit of avoiding as much as humanly possible, can now be peacefully crossed on foot, and its architectural and urban landmarks are, once again, given room to breathe and stand out as they should. Let’s use the current situation to focus on the real needs of Prague residents. Let’s use this opportunity to debate ways to promote a sustainable approach to the tourism industry, an accessible and fair housing policy and let us discuss, together, the future of Prague’s urban development.
About 8 million tourists came to Prague last year. But those numbers, published by the Czech statistical office, only reflect travelers staying in official accommodation establishments. The real figures are likely to be about a third higher – meaning that a city like Berlin, three times bigger than Prague, attracts less tourists than our capital city. For local inhabitants who live in Prague, and shape it, tourism has become a serious problem.
This uncontrolled business has changed Prague’s character and identity. It chased away local residents and replaced the local atmosphere built on community life and neighbourly relations with a soulless “Disneyland”, unaffordable housing and business or development projects only intended for a restricted group of people. Essential daily life services disappear, while those catering to tourists skyrocket.
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