What expats say: Where are your street performers?

Debra-Jayne Kimlin was born in the UK, but raised in northern Australia, before moving south to Brisbane and later Melbourne. She studied a Bachelors Degree in Wine Marketing from the University of Adelaide, graduating in 2004, and has a 20-year career history spanning public relations, sales and marketing roles in Airports and Advertising. She moved to Brno in 2007 to teach business english, recently starting lecturing in wine marketing at the Narodni Vinarske Centrum in Valtice, as well as writing wine marketing articles for Vinarsky Obzor.

What do you like/dislike about Brno?

The abundance of public transport in Brno should be applauded – it’s great – you really don’t need a car to get anywhere. This is unfortunately marred by the lack of safe practice displayed by some of the tram and bus drivers – who mustn’t be assessed psychologically before they are put behind the wheel. I’ve seen blood spilled in these vehicles from irresponsible, wreckless and seemingly sadistic practices of the drivers.

The amount of building restoration going on in my neighbourhood (inner-city suburb) and in the city centre makes me smile. It is done with such sensitivity and care for the magnificent facades. Brno should be proud of the beautiful face it is maintaining for visitors and locals alike by preserving its heritage buildings. I love the restoration work done to the roads and footpaths in front of Jacob’s Church and along Husova.

Although the city is littered in some places by undesirables, you can walk around most of the centre with a feeling of safety and peace. I think this is important for foreigners.

Do you know some “best practices” or experience from living in other cities which could be of use in Brno, too?

Coming from a small city which developed tourism as a major industry, I can think of a mountain of best practices which can be adopted by Brno’s business and government leaders.

Thank goodness restoration work has started on that train station. It’s a slap in the face for visitors, and those of us who travel by train to other cities. Crossing the road in front of the station, you take your life into your hands. It’s a nightmare of tram lines, pushing vehicles, and badly placed crossings. Cars and buses should not be allowed to drive in front of the station. There is little/no drop-off zone there anyway.

China has, in the last few years, outlawed spitting in the streets, introducing big fines for those caught doing it. It’s time to bring that in to Brno also. It’s a disgusting, disease-spreading habit.

Brno has the potential to become a wine-cultural capital. Wine tourism needs to take a hold here, not only to increase job opportunities for the whole south Moravian wine region, but to give the city a status that Prague simply cannot touch. Brno is perfectly situated on a direct route from Prague to Vienna. Come on, people, you have CASTLES IN YOUR VINEYARDS!!!! Australia is the king of wine tourism organization, and has a multi-million dollar industry based around visiting vines – and they don’t have 13th century castles, or Mucha paintings to add to the wine-touring experience.

Finally – hello Brno, where are your street performers? Jugglers, statues, musicians all bring life into a city centre and have proved to be highly successful in cities all over the world. There are so many theatres here, so I am sure there would be no shortage of performers somewhere? Brno could adopt a model for organizing these performers from London, Melbourne, Berlin, Vienna, Barcelona and many others. Take Vienna, for example: A busking license costs 5 Euro – and entitles the holder to major spots in the city on allocated days, for an hour or two at a time. Non-prime spots around the city can be taken at any time during the month of the license. This gives city hall some idea who these people are (as they show ID to get the license) and empowers police to remove anyone who has not paid, thus keeping the number of performers at a manageable level.

What do you think is its advantage compared with other cities?

For a city which holds place as second largest in the country, Brno is still just a big town in terms of atmosphere. The abundance of youth (students) which make up a major part of Brno’s image, keep the place friendly and vibrant.

As I mentioned above, Brno’s strategic position close to the Moravian wine region offers perfect base-status for wine tourism. This could put Brno on the global wine-map with the likes of Adelaide, Melbourne, Bordeaux … I’m working on that one.

Seriously, I think Brno’s variety of curiosities can compete with Prague’s. So they have a bridge? We have mummified monks! And our castle [albeit less celebrious] is nestled in a peaceful forest environment atop a hill right next to the city. You can venture around Brno’s highlights without blisters or use of public transport!

Where do you see the way how to make Brno more open and attractive for foreigners?

Put up some information boards around the city showing the story of the main sites [at least in Czech, German and English], as well as old photographs showing what it looked like at key historic periods. Berlin does this and it’s much better than flicking through a guide-book all the time.

Improve the retail trade. Encourage a higher level of customer service. This means training, and thus investment by the shop owners. Time to put some of the profits back into your business. Training + Motivation = Happy Staff = Happy Customers = more profits and sustainable business. You don’t have to be Einstein to work this equation out. How about Albert and Tesco sponsoring some Annual Retail Awards celebrating excellence in customer service?

Written by: Petr Marčišák

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