Britain’s cultural ambassadors to the world continue to make headlines. This week the English Football Association vowed to reconsider hosting football matches in cities dubbed “stag-do destinations” because of the drunken behaviour of fans. Earlier on this summer a plane was grounded at Bristol airport shortly before take-off because a group of men began celebrating their stag-do weekend prematurely. In the words of the airline: “It’s an aircraft- not a nightclub”.
It’s no coincidence where that plane was scheduled to go: Prague.
The historic capital of the Czech-republic has developed a particular reputation to British holiday makers as the venue for a stag-do (the British term for a bachelor party). For years, groups of lads have travelled to Prague seeking a weekend of alcohol and misbehaviour, attracted mainly by the prospect of cheap beer and beautiful European women- “Beer and babes galore” in the words of one tour operator– and have created a terrible reputation for the UK in the process.
According to a recent survey, Prague has slipped to become the second most popular choice of venue for British stag-parties, but some tour operators who operate in the Czech Republic claim that the city is still number one.
This particular type of tourist often experience a particular set of problems. For some reason the British Embassy in Prague has had to assist with a disproportionate number of lost passports, drug-related incidents and hospitalisations.
While this trend is nothing new, the context in which it is taking place has changed radically since Prague was crowned the “King” of stag-destinations.
Prague has had a run of record-breaking tourist seasons in recent years. In 2017 there were over 7 million visitors to the historic Czech capital, and 2018 seems set to be the busiest year yet. While this influx of holiday-makers has been welcomed by officials, helping to bring in an estimated $18 billion to the national economy, the booming tourism economy has sparked a conversation similar to that in other European capitals about the down-sides to the location’s popularity with foreigners: so-called “over-tourism”.
The typical problems associated with over-tourism include congested hot-spots, litter and pollution, a surge in holiday-rental accommodation pushing out local home buyers, as well as general problems with noisy and disorderly behaviour. The phenomenon has become so well known that a Czech artist recently won funding to house locals in the centre of Český Krumlov as a piece of contemporary art.
It’s hard to say exactly how the stag-do phenomenon fits in to this issue; certainly British lads will make use of Air-BnB and visit the most popular sights just like any other tourist. In some cases stag-groups will arrange to have their entire holiday taken care of through one of the various UK-based agencies who offer package stag-tours of Prague.
While the British stag-groups make up only a portion of the mass tourism to Prague, they are certainly the percentage that make themselves the most noticed. One only need mention British tourists to locals to trigger eye-rolls and rants.
“Quite frankly, Czechs I know simply don’t like British lads- especially stags” says Steve, an American man who has spent time living in Prague. He says that many of this friends work in hotels and bars, and that they have developed a real disliking for the Brits.
“I think it is because of the problems with alcohol many Brits seem to have. It used to be the ‘Russian Invasion’ which was the most annoying time of the year for hospitality staff- when Russians would come in droves for the Orthodox Christmas/New Years. Now it is just groups of British lads which they find most annoying, to the point Brits may not experience as good of service at bars and restaurants, as, say Americans”.
This tension between locals and stags has begun to change the way Prague treat Brits. The British Embassy recently warned on its website that some bars and restaurants in the city centre no longer accept groups of Brits.
A walk through Wenceslas square or the Old Town district on a Saturday night highlights why. English appears to be the main language on the streets. It’s not just the language, but the volume that is striking. A few weeks ago, in an attempt to draw attention to the noise issues surrounding bars in Prague 1, locals campaigned to have noise-meters placed in certain hotspots.
Instead of discouraging visitors from making a racket, though, the presence of such equipment appears to be interpreted as a challenge; this reporter recently captured video of a group of English tourists shouting and whistling at the noise-meter in an attempt to raise the noise levels as high as possible.
If Prague is looking for ways to reduce the problems associated with over-tourism then it seems that curbing the stag-dos might be a good place to start.