VILNIUS – Lithuanian outbound tourism is recovering in the run up to the summer vacation season, but inbound travel remains virtually non-existent, according to the industry's representatives.
Zydre Gaveliene, president of Lithuania's National Tourism Business Association, says people are tired of staying at home and are eager to travel as a growing number of countries are reopening to tourism.
"We already see more light than clouds, because an increasing number of countries are creating clear expectations for tourists and waiting for them," Gaveliene told BNS. "These are such places as Greece, the island of Madeira and Iceland."
"This makes it easier for tourists to choose, and flights to these countries are selling out," she added.
Dovile Zapkute, spokeswoman for Novaturas, a leading Lithuanian our operator, says the tourism sector is on the path to recovery, but it still has a long way to go to the 2019 levels.
"The first four months of the year indicate an accelerating 2021 holiday season," Zapkute told BNS.
"We started the year with scheduled flight programs, not individual flights as we did last year. We increased the scope of activities in March and launched flights to Turkey in April. Greece is opening in mid-May."
Novaturas is planning to offer trips to Bulgaria, Montenegro, Tunisia, Portugal, Italy and Spain in the summer, too.
Tiketa Tour CEO Gvidas Aukstuolis also notes increasing interest in foreign travel.
"There is interest," Aukstuolis told BNS. "Foreign resorts are doing their best to win our customers back – from pricing to tourist policies."
"We'll operate flights to Bulgaria during the summer period, and the first bookings only confirm Lithuanians' eagerness to return to the holiday rhythm," he added.
While outbound tourism is recovering, travel to Lithuania remains stalled amid a lack of clear rules, Gaveliene said.
"It makes one sad to look at the Lithuanian tourism sector. There's a complete freeze," she said. "The key thing is that neither service provider has clear rules for accepting tourists, nor has Lithuania said loudly when it's going to let tourists in."
Lithuania's strict self-quarantine requirements for people coming or returning from abroad is another factor that prevents inbound tourism from getting off the ground, according to the association's president.
Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite said last week that the government was planning to open its borders to vaccinated tourists from Israel and other non-EU countries shortly, with the Cabinet likely to take the necessary decisions this week.
Lithuania saw the flow of tourists plunge by 77 percent in the first quarter of 2021. A mere 14 percent of the usual flow of foreign tourists arrived in the country, and Lithuanian travelers made up 69 percent of all tourists in accommodation establishments, according to Statistics Lithuania.