Long considered one of the world’s most peaceful nations, even anti-government protests and the prime minister’s corruption scandal posed no obstacle to the Czech Republic’s year-on-year rise in the rankings for 2019, which saw a gain of two places. Standing firm in its reputation for a high standard of living, natural beauty and colourful history, the Land of Stories saw a record number of tourists visit the nation in a year when it was reported to be the globe’s second most welcoming country. This, all during a period which saw the country’s largest demonstrations since independence, and a lengthy fraud probe into Prime Minister Andrej Babis that tested the Czech Republic’s national motto – truth prevails – to its limits. Though historically a high performer in the ‘Government’ objective metric, growing calls for Babis’ resignation and President Milos Zeman’s ambitions to withdraw the country’s recognition of Kosovo may force the country to rely on its soft power assets more so than ever.
The Czech Republic’s reputation as a safe and affordable travel location is reflected in its consistent growth in tourist numbers and frequent flight connections from European hubs. The recent easing of EU visa restrictions has benefited cities such as Prague more so than many other regional capitals, whose splendid backdrop has invited a surge in visitors from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Opinion polls show that Prime Minister Babis remains popular with a strong proportion of the domestic population. However, June’s anti-government protests – the largest since the Velvet Revolution – likely weakened the international community’s impression of the Czech Republic. Should the country’s domestic divisions continue into 2020, negative perceptions may weaken investor confidence and spur a decline in tourist numbers that not even the country’s famed castles, chateaux or complexes can save.
To strengthen the country’s soft power standing, the Czech Republic should concentrate its efforts on enhancing its digital diplomacy, possibly through integrating its ever-popular tourism industry, to showcase the nation’s existing soft power assets and boost cultural recognition.