After Thailand and Seattle gained growing numbers of Chinese tourists from serving as the settings for blockbuster films, Prague is the latest destination to gain a tourism boost from China’s box office.
As countries across the world vie for the attention of China’s growing bloc of high-spending outbound travelers, the Czech Republic has become one of the winners with significant Chinese tourist spending growth in 2015. According to recently released statistics, the total spending of Chinese tourists in the country rose by 119 percent in the first half of the year, passing Russian travelers’ expenses in June. Chinese tourists now take up 26 percent of all spending by foreign visitors.
In addition to concerted efforts by the Czech government to market to Chinese travelers, the country is cashing in on the “Lost in Thailand effect” by benefiting financially from a blockbuster movie set there. This staggering growth comes after the Valentine’s Day release in China of the romantic film Somewhere Only We Know (《有一个地方只有我们知道》), the first ever Chinese film to be set in Prague. It reached number one at the box office and had Chinese audiences swooning over Prague’s cobblestone streets in its Old Town and medieval district where the filming took place.
The film almost doubles as an advertisement for the city, following a young, stylish, and attractive Chinese girl as she searches for her grandmother’s long-lost love in some of the city’s most picturesque areas—while of course finding a handsome beau for herself while she’s at it. The over-the-top sappiness and somewhat incoherent plot line didn’t deter Chinese audiences, who watched the film online millions of times in addition to flocking to theaters to see it.
The success of this film for attracting travelers comes after Thailand saw a major Chinese tourist influx in 2013 thanks to the success of the smash-hit blockbuster Lost in Thailand, while Seattle received more Chinese visitors as a result of the popularity of romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right. Inspired by the revenue generated, more countries are offering up their tourism destinations as settings for Chinese movies. In May of this year during India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China visit, three deals were struck to create India-China co-productions, which India hopes will help it catch up with its regional neighbors to bring in Chinese travelers. With hopes of generating Lost in Thailand-style success, one of the films will be written by Lost in Thailand’s scriptwriters and directed by one of its stars.
Now that demand for visiting Prague has risen, more direct flights from Beijing to Prague are set to go into effect on September 3 with Hainan Airlines, which will take place three times a week and serve an estimated 60,000 people annually. The availability of more direct flights has a strong impact on Chinese tourist growth due to Chinese travelers’ relatively short vacation times and demand for easy accessibility to locations.
The Czech Republic has been making significant efforts to attract Chinese tourists after it “reset relations” with China, prompting visits by Czech officials. As a part of these efforts, the Czech Republic’s public television channel teamed up with China’s CCTV to air a series of documentaries about the Czech Republic in China. After the country saw 174,000 tourists from China in 2013, the number grew by 11 percent last year, according to preliminary data, and is predicted to reach 210,000 this year.