IF YOU asked an Australian to locate Slovakia on a map of the world, you'd be lucky if they even pointed at Europe. Mind you, if you asked them to find their right foot they'd probably struggle to do that too. But that's another story.
The Slovak Tourist Board is charged with the responsibility of creating an awareness of the Slovak Republic as a beautiful host country. To date though, it has failed miserably in spreading its message south of the equator.
Australians are the people just itching to strap on a backpack, buy a cheap air ticket, and wander the globe aimlessly. It's genetically encoded in their psyche that they must travel as far and for as long as possible, preferably with only two changes of underpants. But they've barely heard of Slovakia. The missed opportunity of earning millions of Aussie tourist dollars is breathtaking.
Slovakia, don't despair! It's not too late to rectify this appalling situation. All the Tourist Board has to do is follow the two simple suggestions below. If done correctly, Slovakia will soon be inundated with so many Australian travellers that you'll think Bratislava is Sydney.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Slovaks need to start playing cricket. It's the surest way of raising your profile. Australians know about a whole host of strange countries - Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh among them - simply because they play cricket.
For those of you not familiar with cricket, it's a sport widely reputed to have been invented by God and played by Saints. Eleven men a side stand around for up to five days in white clothes chasing a little red ball around at intermittent intervals. The pace of the game is such that only glaciers and the European Parliament move more quickly.
Cricket allows Australian spectators to indulge in a variety of other associated pastimes including drinking beer, getting sunburnt, and sledging opponents. Importantly, it also provides an opportunity to call in sick to work. It's not unusual in Australia for people to contract and recover from pneumonia, diphtheria, or smallpox during the time it takes for an international cricket match to be played.
Slovakia can attract Aussie tourists by leveraging off their love of cricket. Installing a cricket pitch in front of the old Town Hall would be a start. Turning the Nový Most into a cricket museum would be even better. Renaming Slovakia "Steve Waugh Country", after Australia's favourite athlete, would be a guaranteed winner.
Secondly, the Tourist Board needs to heavily advertise the fact that beer in Slovakia is cheap. Throwing all notions of economic sensibility aside, Australians will spend thousands and thousands of dollars to get to a place where they can save a few crowns on the price of beer.
Beer plays a paramount role in Australian society. Breweries sponsor every major sporting event in the country. Managing Directors of beer companies are as famous as pop-stars and politicians. The word "beer" appears no less than three times in the Australian national anthem. Australians are drawn to beer like moths to a fire.
And here are a few tips on how to convert Australia's fascination with lager into a cash bonanza for Slovakia's tourism industry. Hand out free beer at all border crossings. Elect a glass of stout as president. Replace public fountains with beer dispensers.
Keeping the above in mind, cricket and beer, in next to no time you'll be the darling of the Australian community.
22. Dec 2003 at 0:00 | Duncan Edghill