Br(u)no: When Your Customers Disappear
Photo credit: Freepik / For illustrative purposes.
At this time last year, Petr Bouchal and GProoms were accommodating thousands of motorcycle-racing fans in empty dormitory rooms throughout Brno. It was their fifth year of growth and they were continuing to establish themselves as a successful part of the annual international event officially named Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky.
This year, however, Bouchal will be on vacation.
“It’s the first time in five years that I am able to take a summer off,” he said. “I am in Poland with my family. Personal life is better, business life is worse.”
That is what you call looking on the bright side.
In a normal year, GProoms — https://www.gprooms.eu/ — sells more than 10,000 tickets, many as part of package deals, and arranges 3,000 beds for visitors. Half the clients are Czech. The other half are from England, Italy, Germany and the rest of Europe.
This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, no fans will be allowed at Masarykův Okruh (Masaryk circuit, Automotodrom Brno) just west of Brno. This year there is, literally, nothing left to do. Hence: vacation.
The lack of fans has devastated many local businesses and it will have a big impact on the overall local economy. GProoms, an offshoot company named GPtents, hotels, pensions and Airbnb accommodations will all be largely empty. Restaurants and bars and night clubs will not be filled with generous international tippers. The entrepreneurs and full-time employees and part-time workers will all miss out on paychecks.
Most local establishments may be open — even if there has been a recent uptick in infections — but it was too late for the MotoGP and the influx of money that it brings to Brno and the surrounding area. For some sectors of the economy, it is not unlike the Christmas shopping season being cancelled for toy stores.
The final announcement was delayed until just a month ago.
“The decision was made by the international organization,” Bouchal said. “We just followed their instructions. We didn’t have any power. We listened to them. Health is No. 1. Business is second.”
“Accomodations and restaurants will all be hurt. More than 100,000 people come each year and spend about 8,000 kc per person.”
Instead of tapping into that windfall, GProoms has been going through every reservation to either provide a refund or push the ticket forward to next year.
“We were already half-booked in February,” Bouchal said. “The sales of the tickets were zero in March, then we sold a few tickets here and there. Now, there are no sales at all, just refunds because we have a friendly policy where you can cancel two weeks before coming. Things are not the way we expected. But we are still holding up.”
The silver lining may be that many people are keeping their tickets for 2021, which will be honored despite an expected price increase.
Bouchal started GProoms six years ago as a way to fill empty dormitory rooms with race fans. At the time, he was studying mechanical engineering at VUT. In the first year, he and his university friends put 200 race-goers into 100 dorm rooms. Customers appreciated the excellent service, which included breakfast, beer, and a professional and informative survival guide. The customer service was great, so the fans returned again and again — and, hopefully, again next year.
GPtents, a spin-off company, offers accommodations at many of the stops along both the MotoGP and the F1 circuits throughout Europe. It has basically closed down this year, too.
Now, in response to the changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, Bouchal has had another business idea. He has started to convert and rent camper vans: “My friends liked to borrow my camper van, so it’s a new business I’m starting. It’s only two weeks old.”
After all, if there are customers, then there can be business.
Czech Republic MotoGP
The Czech Republic MotoGP competition will be held this weekend in Brno, just without on-site fans. Nova Sport 1 will televise the complete program. Today, there will be practice sessions in the morning and qualification races in the afternoon.
Tomorrow, the main events will be held: Moto3 goes at 11 a.m.; Moto2 starts at 12:20; and the MotoGP is at 2 p.m.