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Latvia hopes to see Icelandic tourists and their wallets

  • 2000-08-10
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - The main idea of the Latvia-Iceland treaty on tourism signed Aug. 1 is to let the two countries, first of all, find each other on the map, and then travel back and forth, leaving money behind.

"I know Latvians are very well-traveled, but unfortunately Iceland is very far away and very expensive," said Aira Andriksone, head of the tourist division in the Ministry of Environment.

There are still more than two dozen active volcanoes in Iceland, providing a draw for tourists.

"People who come here are interested in all Nordic countries," said Sandra Strole, spokeswoman for the Nordic information center. "They like the nature, and students want to study there as well."

Because the treaty is yet to be ratified by the Latvian and Icelandic parliaments, there is very little known about the newly founded tourist division.

Andriksone said she did not know much about the treaty and could not comment until the treaty has been ratified.

"We are hoping that in coming years tourist flow will increase," Andriksone said.

There is only one travel agent in Latvia offering trips to Iceland. A single ticket could cost up to $900 for a three-day stay in the capital Reykjavik.

Travel agent Latvia Tours offers two different family packages. The shorter of the two costs $555 per day and lasts four days. The longer stay lasts a week and costs about $1,000 per day. In both these packages, there are excursions around the island with tourist activities and sightseeing.

"A family went to Iceland last week," Strole said. "They didn't know anything (about accommodations), so they took a tent with them."

It is not yet decided when the parliaments will ratify the tourist treaty. Therefore, the countries will have to wait before they can start trading tourist dollars. In the meantime, Andriksone is not too hopeful about seeing Icelandic tourists in Latvia.

"I don't think many people in Iceland know where Latvia is," Andriksone said.