When I left my job to found CZEXPERIENCE and start living my dream at the beginning of this year, my amazing wife Zuzka and I had our doubts as to whether this was a good idea. Would our newly-established travel agency CZEXPERIENCE actually work? Is the idea of promoting the beautiful sites in the Czech Republic attractive enough for foreign travellers? Do visitors really care about visiting places outside of Prague? And, most importantly, will we have enough clients for us to survive?
I built the idea of CZEXPERIENCE around my previous experience working as a sort of unofficial tour guide for many years. Having lived and worked in so many different countries around the world, I have quite a few foreign friends. During the past 6 years, I had received tons of emails from them almost every summer, telling me that they were coming for a visit and asking if I could show them around. Great, I thought! I always loved showing our beautiful country to my dear friends! But, later on, they start sending me email saying that their friends were coming to the Czech Republic. Always with the request tagged on at the end: could I also show their friends around? And then friends of friends??
So, I thought “Alright”. It’s always great to help friends of good friend. However, as soon as I developed a reputation for being a knowledgeable, friendly, easy-going guide with reasonable English skills, I began getting more and more emails. It started coming from people I did not know and who even my friends did not know. The authors always referred to someone who knew this person or that person who knew one of my friends: these complete strangers were asking for guided tours for showing them around the most beautiful, off-the-beaten-track places in the Czech Republic. I never refused anyone and provided guide services to anyone who asked for them. I did this in my free-time, during weekends, and for free. I did not mind it much, as I always liked talking to visitors from different countries and sharing with them various facts about Czech history, traditions and daily life.
I had had enough of building water networks in Africa.
In the meantime, I realized I really need a change in my professional life. For 12 long years, I had worked in the development sector. First, I had cooperated with NGOs and then, during the past 7 years, I worked for a company implementing water projects in developing countries. I know this may sound interesting and thrilling: the idea of managing projects like the construction of waterworks systems in poor villages in Ethiopia or assisting with the renovation of hydro-power plants in Afghanistan. But after so many years, it had started to become too routine. I was also tired of endless travelling and wanted to spend more time at home.
The idea came to me suddenly last summer. I asked myself: what if I quit my job and make guiding visitors around the Czech Republic my livelihood? The more I thought about it, the more I was sure it was the right thing to do. Although I had no idea how the tourism business works, or what problems or complications might befall me, I grew more self-confident that if I gave tours for my clients the same way I did with my friends and their friends; and if I were to remain honest, open-minded and friendly, I would definitely succeed.
Registering my new business, setting up the new website, and spending all our savings on buying a comfortable van was relatively easy. But the bigger question remained: how would we find new clients when nobody knew about us? I sent out several messages on social networks and asked our friends and family living abroad to spread the word about our new business as well. I then began promoting the website, I printed leaflets and gave them to my friends in Prague to distribute: basically, any friends who worked in hotels and restaurants. I made a humble appeal to distribute them to travellers. But even after all that effort, not much happened. I got a few emails from people saying they had read a recommendation by our friends and family on Facebook and Instagram and that the next year they would definitely take a tour with us. That was all well and good, but we needed clients NOW!
Never give up!
The turning point came in mid-July. My fantastic wife, Zuzka, met with a guy named Martin, who organized tours of Europe for American teen tennis players. They were travelling from tournament to tournament; however, they had “bad luck” in Prague. All their young players got quickly knocked out of the tournament: all of sudden, they had a free day in Prague and didn’t know what to do with their time. That was when Martin had a chance encounter with Zuzka. She told him that we could organize a tour for them to a beautiful Karlštějn castle and Koněprusy caves not far away from Prague. We let him know that it would be a great day that the kids would never forget. After some hesitation, Martin agreed. To this day, I am not sure whether it was because of my wife´s charm or because the idea of spending an entire day with 16 hyperactive teenagers made his hair stand on end, but he took us up on our offer. So one sunny, summer day we got in three cars and took a tour west of Prague. Although you can imagine it’s not always easy to entertain a big group of teenagers, the day turned out just fine! So, to make a long story short, after this particular tour, fortune started to shine on us. During the second half of July we booked a couple more tours. August brought even more business and September was a blast!
People were so happy with our services that we started to receive emails like this:
My brother, Martin, and his wife, Becky, recommended you very highly as a tour guide.
I wonder if you might be free to give my wife, Susan, and me a tour when we are in Prague next week. The day that works best for us is Friday, September 8.
We have never been to Prague; we have so much to learn. But along with seeing the most important sites, we are particularly interested in seeing places related to the musicians, Antonin Dvořák, and Josef Suk, Dvořák’s student. My wife is also interested in seeing the food markets in Prague.
We very much hope that you are available and look forward to hearing more details!
Palo Alto, California
Even though I knew that it would be hard to establish ourselves on the saturated Czech travel market, this was the moment when I began to believe our idea just might work. Moreover, our TripAdvisor and Facebook pages started to fill up with reviews like these:
We had two fantastic day trips with Honza from Czexperience! We had originally booked a day trip to Český Krumlov, but we enjoyed it so much that we asked him to take us to Kutná Hora the following day. Honza is prompt, knowledgeable and very interesting to talk to. In addition to seeing the sites and learning about the area, we had great conversations about Czech history, politics and culture; learning far more than we would have touring on our own. There are lots of fun options for trips and they have great recommendations for food and drinks. We highly recommend Czexperience!
My mother and I had an incredible day trip with Honza and his wife, Zuzka, on Sat., 7 Oct., to the Lednice Chateau and the annual Valtice Wine Festival in South Moravia. It was a superb day. The festival exceeded our expectations with music, dancing, a parade and great food and wine. All in all, an A+ travel experience. Next time we will book more trips with Honza, but if we do venture this far out of Prague, it might be best to spend at least one night as part of the trip, so that we don’t have to drive both ways in one day.
4 of us spent 5 days with Honza traveling around Prague, and even at places where Honza did not expect to take us. We very much appreciated his personality and ability to accommodate our desires and changes to our plans. Honza has a great personality and is a pleasure to talk to and learn from. We highly recommend Honza for a very cool experience in the Czech Republic.
Such nice testimonials: and there are many more here on our TripAdvisor page. This reinforced our belief in what we were doing. Everything suddenly started to make sense. That’s why I would sincerely like to thank all of our fantastic clients for giving us a chance!! I promise we will continue our work with the same enthusiasm and passion that we started with! Here’s to another year of many more tours with great people from all over the world!
You are all welcome to visit us anytime!