What will the title of European Capital of Culture bring to Pilsen and the Pilsen Region?
Over the course of its existence so far, the European Capital of Culture project has been proven to bring valuable benefits to those cities that did not underestimate the preparation process and that also kept in mind the aim for the sustainable development of the city and the region on the basis of creativity.
The title has so far had a positive long-term impact on all host cities in the areas of economic and social development, an increase in tourism, restoration of cultural facilities, and the infrastructure and development of the creative industry bringing jobs.
For example, in 2008 the city of Liverpool attracted an extra 9.7 million tourists and made a net profit of 800 million pounds from the title, whilst the cost of the project was 117 million pounds. In Graz, Austria, the European Capital of Culture project generated additional revenues from tourism reaching 74 million Euros and brought long-term economic benefits to the local GDP (the expenses of tourists visiting for several days amounted to about €21 million). The Ruhr-Essen area attracted over 6.5 million tourists (an increase of 13.4%) thanks to the project, and these tourists created an additional gross revenue of about €90 million by staying in hotels.
2015 is therefore going to be a year of opportunities for Pilsen. It is going to be up to local economic entities as to how they rise to the challenge. We will inarguably see much higher numbers of people coming to visit us in 2015 than we have in the preceding years, coming from across the Czech Republic as well as from abroad – the prestigious tourist guide Lonely Planet has already chosen Pilsen as one of the top ten European destinations for 2014.
The economic effect of the project can be separated in a simplified way into three categories: an increase in the numbers of visitors; the longer these visitors stay in the city; and an increase in the number of overnight stays. These will all have a direct effect on the economic results of service providers.
The high profile of the project on a worldwide scale will provide a substantial service to traditional local products. The next year gives us the opportunity to remind the world of why beers worldwide have "Pils" in their names, of the flavour of sauerkraut from Křimice, of the origin of Přeštice pork, and of where the pastry called Chodský koláč is baked, not to mention where Škoda workers manufacture trams.
Another thing local entrepreneurs should not miss is the import of what is known as cultural diplomacy. A number of congress and conference organisers have already reported that Pilsen is their place of choice for their meetings in the next year. A city filled with culture also attracts experts and businesspeople. A common cultural and emotional experience has the power to cement a business relationship better than anything else.
Japanese companies, among others, are investing millions into the project in order to present culture in a dignified fashion. Business certainly goes hand in hand with this, and when again will Pilsen be lucky enough to welcome representatives of companies reporting turnovers nearing the levels of a smaller Central European republic?
The European Capital of Culture project has often become a target of criticism as a megalomaniacal event funded from the public purse. And it may indeed prove to be an expensive and needless event if we fail to make the most of the potential it offers. In 2015 and the following years, Pilsen will try hard to translate the invested resources and energy into an economic boom for the city and the region. To see every invested crown returning many times over.