In July, the number of foreign tourists to Latvia doubled compared to the previous year, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics. The most popular destination is Riga, which was visited by almost 60% of foreign tourists entering Latvia. A total of 16% of tourists visited Jūrmala, followed by Liepāja, Sigulda and Ventspils. Most tourists arrived in Latvia from Lithuania and Estonia, followed by Finland and Poland, while the number of tourists from Russia is decreasing.
The representative of the Riga Investment and Tourism Agency, Ieva Lasmane, said that after the start of the war, a large part of the reservations of tourist groups were canceled. About 60-70% of pre-pandemic tourist numbers were served in the capital. Not all hotels have resumed work in Riga this summer.
“First, Mogotel, they have a lot of hotels. In order not to compete with their own hotels, they may choose not to open temporarily. This is not only influenced by the number of tourists, but also by the lack of staff. Russian tourists still appear in the statistics, which certainly cannot be compared to 2018 or 2019, when the total number of Russian tourists was close to 200,000 per year. Overall, however, it was previously around 10-13%. It is clear that it is very difficult to replace such a large mass at once, but we have invested more resources in the German market, which is a big market. We have a lot of direct flights to different German cities, so getting to Riga is very easy. The second of these big markets is Great Britain, which has been growing steadily all these years, also with very good airlines and, of course, our close Nordic countries, Scandinavia,” said Lasmane.
Most Russian tourists have rested in the resort town of Jurmala until now. In September this year, the Cabinet decided that the entry of citizens of the Russian Federation into Latvia for tourist and recreational purposes was restricted. Madara Zahare, senior expert from Jūrmala’s tourism and business department, said that the largest number of Russian tourists – a quarter of the total number of tourists – visited Jūrmala in 2019, but already last year their number has increased. significantly decreased – to 2% , and this year they account for 3% of the total number of tourists.
“It should be noted that Russian citizens have purchased property in Jurmala, as well as when traveling they tend to stay with relatives, friends, flats or private apartments that do not provide data to the CSP. Therefore, we assume that in fact this number may be higher than indicated by the specific data. The first half of this year, in general, was more lively in terms of the number of foreign tourists than, for example, last year, and we also received feedback from the main hotels in Jurmala for this summer season, which, compared to the last 2 years, everything was very good and enjoyable, and there were no restrictions,” said Zahare.
Santa Graikste, executive director of the Latvian Hotel and Restaurant Association, said there is uncertainty about how tourism will be affected by high energy prices. Currently, last-minute hotel reservations are made even by German tourists who usually made it 3 or 4 months before the trip.
“For the most successful period of the season, we can talk about July, August, when the season was really what it should be, and some even reported the best results in history. Reservations are coming in for October, but it’s hard to say for November and December because those reservations are made very shortly before. Therefore, it would also be important that with the support of public institutions and industry, there is a return of major international events, conferences, seminars to Latvia,” Graikste said.
In the 7 months of this year, 1.2 million foreign and local tourists were served in Latvian tourist accommodation, which is 85% more than in the corresponding period of last year, but still close to 30% less than in 2019.
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