Being in proximity of the largest Lithuanian cities and airports, the resort of Birstonas (Birštonas) has lately been thriving as a conference destination both for local and international forum organizers. The Baltic Times Magazine spoke to Nijole Dirginciene, the mayor, about that.
Birstonas was and is known as a wonderful resort, but in recent years it has emerged as a favourite place for conference organizers. What is behind this?
Indeed, it has become such, due to being very conveniently located, close to the big cities of Lithuania – Vilnius, Kaunas, Alytus, Marijampole, from all of which it takes an hour or less to reach Birstonas by car. Meanwhile, the distance to Vilnius airport by car is only 95 km, to Kaunas airport even less – 50 km. The resort can also be reached by intercity buses that run daily and frequently.
Birstonas resort has a well-developed infrastructure, which is suitable for both active and quiet recreation, health and work holidays. Not only can conference participants participate in the conference, but at the same time enjoy all the facilities offered by the resort. Birstonas accommodation facilities are open all year round and can accommodate almost 3,000 tourists at a time. The three largest accommodation establishments in the resort can accommodate more than 1,300 tourists. Accommodation establishments are characterized by a high quality of service and service at an affordable price.
Not only does the municipality of Birstonas invest in the improvement of infrastructure, but also institutions where conferences are organized: they expand recreation, leisure and outdoor spaces, have tennis courts, outdoor volleyball courts, and renovate conference venues. The facilities' infrastructure is adapted to organizing conferences and events: a wide selection of conference halls of various sizes, catering, accommodation, rest areas, wellness services, leisure entertainment - customers can get the entire complex of high-quality services in one place.
On top of that, the resort has been one of the safest municipalities in Lithuania for several years.
What were the biggest conferences in Birstonas in 2023?
Large-scale conferences were organized in the sanatoriums and hotels of Birstonas, bringing together professionals in their fields: doctors, nurses, spa specialists, educators, lawyers, builders and many others. For example, the organizers of the nurses' forum have chosen Birstonas for the conference for many years.
Conferences and corporate events are organized by both Lithuanian and international companies and organizations.
In 2024, the "Būtent!" conference, a forum and discussion festival that has been organized here for many years, returns to our resort.
How does the Municipality promote conference tourism?
Birstonas resort was declared "The most successful tourist attraction" three times. The resort offers residents and guests something new every year: in 2022, the Birstonas Sports and Wellness Centre opened its doors, a passenger ship pier was opened, the longest toboggan run in the country was installed, the first park of radio-controlled all-terrain vehicles in Lithuania, a unique climbing tower was built, the infrastructure was updated, including both a city pedestrian and bicycle overpass connecting the sides and facilitating access to the observation tower. In 2019, the highest observation tower in Lithuania was opened, from which you can see the bends of the Nemunas River, the panorama of the city of Birstonas, and the forests.
I know that the seaside resorts also put a lot of effort into the development and expansion of conference tourism. Can you compete with them?
We notice that the essential criterion is not the sea, especially when it comes to conference tourism, but the infrastructure of the city and hosting institutions, companies, the high quality of services and service, the variety of services, in which both the municipality of Birstonas and accommodation and catering establishments constantly invest.
We have a unique natural feature, Birstonas is one of the oldest and most beautiful balneological resorts in Lithuania, famous for its royal roots, unique nature and winding Nemunas loops. The resort is blessed with natural resources: gushing mineral water springs, healing mud, clean air and a health-friendly climate. We don't have the sea, but we do have the sky (hot air balloon flights), the land (walking or biking tours) and the water (boating).
Generally speaking, why is it worth living and/or doing business in Birstonas?
The vision of the municipality of Birstonas until 2030 is creating a royal resort of new opportunities, international tourism and unique health services, where a healthy, smart and harmonious community creates the future.
You can travel slowly in Birstonas, but you can reach your destination quickly, without traffic jams and noise of the big city.
Birstonas resort is wonderful not only for its location, views, but also for its activities, spaces that have room for further expansion, opportunities for self-expression in amateur groups, various clubs and organizations.
A year ago, a modern multifunctional sports centre was opened, where not only local or national, but also international sports events of high excellence are organized. There are sports, health promotion and healthy lifestyle classes.
There are plenty of free health-enhancing services. For example, in the Kneipo garden, you can try procedures with cold water to increase stamina of the body and strengthen the immune system, after sitting comfortably in the mineral water pavilion “Birutes vila”, you can breathe in the healthful air saturated with mineral water. In the only mineral water evaporation tower “Druskupis” in Lithuania, you can enjoy the marine effect of the air.
Notably, Birstonas is a leader in the process of renovation of apartment buildings in Lithuania, quarter-by-quarter renovation is being carried out, arranging the engineering structure and the environment as well.
Many traditional and exclusive high-level cultural events are held, accessible to everyone - there is a high-quality culture life here, many have probably heard of the Birstonas Jazz Festival. The resort has an active and broad-minded community.
The municipalities of big cities can usually boast of the best material living conditions, but the municipality of Birstonas is not far behind them. According to the data of the Ministry of Finance, in 2021, one of the highest indicators of material living conditions in Lithuania was in the municipality of Birstonas.
In Birstonas, constant attention is paid to public spaces, well-developed infrastructure, equipped playgrounds and recreation areas for adults, sports fields, places for swimming, walking or cycling. There are modern educational institutions, there are no queues in kindergartens, excellent facilities for children and young people – there are a lot of groups that are free for children, summer camps.
New jobs are constantly being created. There are opportunities to work in successfully operating sanatoriums, wellness and spa centres, hotels, restaurants, and small business enterprises. The oldest mineral water producer in Lithuania operates in Birstonas; its production is exported to many foreign countries, even Japan. Favourable conditions have been created in Birstonas to start your own business, work remotely or combine work with a creative vacation. Birstonas municipality is in the top ten of the best rated small municipalities that ensure favourable conditions for business and potential investors, and it is the leader in Lithuania in terms of investments per capita.
What do you expect from 2024?
The investment project of the pedestrian bridge over the Nemunas River is being completed. The bridge planned to be built in the next few years will connect the two parts of the Birstonas resort on both sides of the Nemunas. The network of bicycle-pedestrian paths continues to expand.
By the fall of next year, a new 4 km bicycle-pedestrian path is planned to be completed, which will connect the already existing paths and it will be possible to travel safely from the Birstonas resort itself to the nearby settlements. It is planned to design a fountain in the style of a stream in Jonas Basanavicius Square. The renovation of streets, sidewalks, and lighting continues.
Companies where conferences are organized receive a lot of inquiries about next year's events, organization of conferences from international companies and organizations, and invest in maintaining an extremely high quality of services and service.
They and the municipality are improving the infrastructure, renovating recreation, conference and outdoor spaces. There is a trend that people are starting to better understand the importance of work-rest balance, the link between productive work and health care, so it is expected that next year even more customers will discover the advantages of combining conferences with wellness and will choose the Birstonas resort to do so.