The Ebb and Flow of Stag Tourism

By: Gaizka Pujana

First Prague was popular with British hen and stag parties, offering the girls-on-tour and boys-on-their-tour cheap booze, sleazy nightclubs, and accommodation in Prague at its most affordable.

Then came the rise of the so-called 'New Prague', which kept popping up in different emerging destinations across the Baltic States. Best men and maids of honour retuned their aerials to the Best Stag and Hen Weekend Cosmos. And Prague learned there's always somewhere cheaper and sleazier.

Contrary to the opinion that city destinations benefit from a rush of boozed up hen or stag tourism, Prague isn't bitter.

Hen and particularly stag parties aren't world renowned as tasteful affairs. They are something of a national embarrassment - being a peculiarly British phenomenon - for many.

On arrival, stag parties normally check into the lowest-end B&Bs or comparable New Prague short-term rental, and they always follow the same dully-predictable pub-crawl performing the same dully-predictable routine of loud and bad behaviour. Local business in general fails to cash in, and often looses business since other types of tourist stay away.

Today's Prague is still popular with British stag and hen parties - communal sigh - but less so. And a different type of tourist does throng the narrow streets, filling chic cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as the numerous Prague holiday apartments and little hotels. But this in itself doesn't end or look like it can stop the wave of tacky consumerism sweeping through Prague.

Glittering with a liberal sprinkling of McDonald's 'golden arches', and with all types of Prague accommodation booming, the country is undergoing a process of commercial development and it's going though the process at a fast rate.

In today's Prague, the purveyor of the world's worst coffee, the infamous Starbucks brand, is never far away. But now the city council has committed a crime too many against culture in favour of bland consumerism: The decision by Prague's deputy mayor in charge of cultural affairs to slash funding for the non-profit sector is considered not so much right-on as symptomatic of consumerism gone mad.

But the fight is about more than the allocation of subsidies: Campaigners want their representatives in power to wake up before it's too late. Nothing less than the city's soul is at stake. Traditionally one of the cultural centres of Europe, and considered to be one of Europe's most beautiful cities, Prague, they rightly say, is a treasure worth keeping - more or less just the way it is.

This is not to say Prague shouldn't develop, economically, socially, architecturally, and the rest of it. But rather the development on the ground should be in harmony with the geography and style of the place, and the growth of the pot should feed the community, not just Prague apartment and hotel owners, and owners of other local and international business.

Of all its consequences on the ground, the homogeneity consumerism spreads is the most numbingly uninspiring. Soon everywhere will adopt the same cardboard look and feel, so you may as well just stay at home.

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