Pilsen is saying farewell to the title of European Capital of Culture 2015
"Pilsen has become a sought-after destination thanks to the project. In my view, the realisation has worked well and the programme has been successful. But there is also an obligation for future years – we have to ensure its sustainability," says the Mayor of the City of Pilsen, Martin Zrzavecký. He emphasises successful events such as the Festival of Light and the Days of Bavarian Culture, as well as DEPO2015's Creative Zone as one of the long-term projects. "We have had discussions at the political level on the scope of activity of DEPO2015 in the future," added the Mayor.
"We have enjoyed an important year when Pilsen became a much sought-after place on the cultural map of Europe. Pilsen has been visited by various Czech and foreign artists, and the programme has been dedicated to artists born in Pilsen, such as Jiří Trnka, Gottfried Lindauer and Ladislav Sutnar, who virtually returned to their home town. Some of Pilsen’s treasures were gradually opened to the public – the Adolf Loos interiors. The extraordinarily rich and varied programme of the European Capital of Culture is now drawing to a close, but I believe that several projects will continue on and become a permanent part of the cultural landscape of Pilsen," assesses Martin Baxa, First Deputy Mayor for Culture, Tourism, Heritage Preservation and Pilsen – European Capital of Culture 2015.
The visit rate figures to date show that Pilsen has performed the best of all regional cities in 2015 in relation to growth dynamics. In the first quarter, it saw the highest annual increase in the number of tourists, i.e. more than Prague, Brno and Ostrava.
During the first six months of the existence of the newly-opened industrial premises of the former transport depot, DEPO2015, where we connect culture and business, it was visited by 100,000 domestic and foreign visitors. The preliminary results after the third quarter confirm that the overall visit rate for events within the European Capital of Culture programme will significantly exceed one million visitors, which has had a positive effect on the revenues of hotels, restaurants and other service providers in Pilsen.
This year's statistics show that the number of tourists staying overnight saw an increase of 30% compared to 2013. The Director of Pilsen Tourism, a municipal organisation of destination management, Zuzana Koubíková comments: "In the first quarter of 2015, 194,000 guests booked accommodation in Pilsen – 13.7% more than in the same period last year. The number of overnight stays in Pilsen as of 30 September was more than 380,000 nights, which is 13% up on last year. In the third quarter, during the summer months, the number of overnight stays in Pilsen increased by 17%. I see this as a great result given the extremely hot summer weather, which is not ideal for city tourism. One-day tourism is going through an even bigger boom. The number of clients at the information centre has increased four-fold. Between January and October, we organised 1,070 guided tours around the centre for more than 27,000 people, which is roughly five times more than last year when we had 218 tours in the same period."
The attractive media image of the city which the title of European Capital of Culture 2015 has brought to the West Bohemian metropolis is also of great value. "3,000 articles in the Czech media and a few hundred in the foreign media were published about Pilsen in connection with the title of European Capital of Culture. Coverage in the foreign press, radio and television is of immeasurable value, as we would never have been able to pay for such large advertising space. Foreign TV stations, such as the BBC, Austria's ORF, and the German ZDF and ARD, reported about us and the Lonely Planet guidebook repeatedly recommended visiting Pilsen," says Mirka Reifová, Pilsen 2015's Press Spokesperson.
The public benefit organisation Pilsen 2015 has not ceased its activities. Long-term sustainability has been an important criterion of the European Capital of Cultural project since its inception, and this has been further accentuated by the European Union as well as the organisers. The team of organisers has chosen a few successful events and multi-annual activities to continue over the next few years. They include the Guardian Angels Club for volunteers and the Hidden City project with its popular Neighbourhood Walks. We will also be maintaining the lecturing and educational programmes for young entrepreneurs, artistic residencies and literature evenings in Loos interiors. An open workshop – Makerspace – and the option of renting a place in the co-working office will continue in the DEPO2015 Creative Zone, and there will also be something for people who like unusual exhibitions. The Pilsen Family Photo Album exhibition will run until 31 January, while the giant metal sculptures by Čestmír Suška shall remain in the courtyard until the end of next year. New activities at the depot will offer visitors an exhibition called "To Film" in February and "Adventurers" in May, which will introduce the unusual fate of the residents of Stod and their resettlement in New Zealand. Next year will be concluded by the exhibition "Plastic and its World". The programme of 2016 will include the Electro Swing dance nights at the Peklo Culture House, the DEPO STREET FOOD MARKET, the Festival of Light, European Neighbours' Day, the Weeks of West Bohemian Baroque and the Days of Bavarian Culture.