Since the emergence of low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and budget forms of accommodation such as Airbnb, the popularity of city break tourism has increased significantly within intra-continental travel across Europe.

According to GlobalData, this form of tourism is now the third most popular globally, only behind Sun and Beach tourism and VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives). Prior to the pandemic, constant year-on-year increases in international tourism to cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and Prague caused anger amongst local communities, creating pressure on local governments.

Although the pandemic has had a substantial impact on this form of tourism, with travellers tending to avoid densely populated areas for large parts of 2020 and 2021, Europeans are starting to return to major city destinations across Europe with the confidence of being double jabbed and restrictions becoming less erratic.

Case study: Prague

Amid the pandemic, tourism officials in Prague stated their intention to use the downtime to create more sustainable forms of city tourism for the future, which would appease residents. Prior to the pandemic, the city was having issues with rowdy tourists clogging up the city centre and lowering the quality of life for locals. Prague’s new pandemic-induced focus was stated to be on attracting ‘high value’ tourists that would stay for longer, spend more, and generally act in more responsible manner during their trip.

However, these wishes from the likes of Prague to rebrand through marketing campaigns and push through potential new pieces of regulation could be short-lived as the economic impact of the pandemic continues to linger. With inbound tourism to the Czech Republic still being only a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, the Czech Tourism Union has called on Prague authorities to act quickly to prevent an economic crisis.

Hands may be forced

With Covid-19-related financial support now ending for many tourism related businesses across Europe, major European cities may have to once again focus on quantity over quality to stimulate economic recovery.

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This quick change in strategy may come to the annoyance of many locals that do not have to rely on tourism for income generation. However, it needs to be acknowledged that many locals will also be campaigning for the return of mass tourism so they can improve their personal finances. The full return of city break tourism in the coming years makes for a hard balancing act for city officials, and one which will always cause controversy.