Estonia, Latvia lead EU in tourist growth

  • 2005-03-09
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Latvia ranked third last year among the European Union member states in terms of growth in the number of overnight tourists, according to data provided by Eurostat.

Tourists spent 1.45 million nights at hotels in Latvia from January through September last year, up 15.5 percent year-on-year. Latvia lagged behind only Estonia and Poland, where tourists spent 2.5 million nights in the nine months, up 30.2 percent, and 14.2 million nights, up 29 percent, respectively.

Janis Jenzis, Latvia's hotel and restaurant association president, tied the growth in the number of tourists mainly to Latvia's accession to the European Union and growing interest in the country on the part of EU residents.

"They have a purely human interest in who we are exactly. Moreover, the relatively low costs of staying in Latvia come as an additional bonus," he explained.

Other important factors that promoted higher tourist numbers were international events 's both those that Latvia organized itself and those in which it is participating. "A big impetus was, for example, Eurovision. We also created additional interest in ourselves through our participation in the soccer European Championships," Jenzis said.

Despite the strong demand, the number of tourists visiting Latvia is still among the lowest in the EU. Lower numbers were recorded only in Lithuania (1.3 million overnight stays) and Luxembourg (963,000 nights).

The union leaders were Italy, with 191.8 million nights spent by tourists in its tourist accommodation places, Spain (190 million nights) and Germany (151 million nights).