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As Eurovision emphasised, the Czech Republic would prefer to be known as Czechia these days, 30 years after its split from Slovakia. It feels like a sleek rebrand for an outward-looking nation that sits at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe.
New president Petr Pavel, a former senior NATO leader, came to power in January on a pro-western platform, and there appears to be no obvious reason why Czechia will decline as an international touring destination in years to come.
In 2023, of course, it may be hard to hit the sheer numbers of 2022, but Prague’s 19-year-old, 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, the country’s key venue, is contemplating a more controlled yet still busy year.
“It will be difficult to surpass last year in terms of success as we achieved a record attendance of 1.1m spectators in just ten months at the O2 Arena and the smaller O2 Universum Hall”
“It will be difficult to surpass last year in terms of success as we achieved a record attendance of 1.1m spectators in just ten months at the O2 Arena and the smaller O2 Universum Hall,” says Robert Schaffer, CEO of Bestsport, which operates both venues. “This year’s programme features more local artists than ever before, but we’ve also had, or will have, performances by world stars such as Iron Maiden, RogerWaters, Hans Zimmer, KISS, Bryan Adams, Björk, and blink-182.”
The ballooning inflation and energy hikes of recent months are calming down now, too, adds Schaffer, though the picture is not yet an ideal one where staffing is concerned.
“For us as operators, energy costs are no longer as frightening as they used to be, and prices are slowly but steadily falling to levels that are no longer unsustainable,” he says. “However, the biggest challenge on the cost side is rapidly increasing personnel costs. Many experienced people also left the industry during the pandemic, which has resulted in a greater demand for professionals and increased difficulty in being able to afford them.
“For us as operators, energy costs are no longer as frightening as they used to be, and prices are slowly but steadily falling to levels that are no longer unsustainable”
“Fortunately, the high inflation is gradually decreasing. Higher costs logically lead to an increase in ticket prices, which can result in a drop in overall sales. However, we have not yet observed this phenomenon to a great extent.”
The O2 Prague hits 20 next year and will celebrate by hosting the IIHF World Hockey Championship next May, as well as adding a new energy-efficient lighting cube in the main hall, a renovated bar in the VIP section, and additional seating.