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Tourists turned off by rising prices

  • 2007-12-10
  • By Mike Collier

RIGA/TALLINN -- Not only locals are starting to complain about high prices in Riga - now it looks like visitors are starting to notice, too.

After enjoying several years with a reputation for cheap food, beer and accommodation, tourists are beginning to question the Latvian capital's value-for-money credentials, according to a report in the Dienas Bizness newspaper.

According to Uldis Vitolins, head of the Latvian Tourism Development Agency (TAVA), there has been a marked decline in tourists' satisfaction with the services they encounter.

A 2006 TAVA report said that 82 percent of foreign tourists were satisfied with the tourism services provided in Latvia. This year the figure plummetted to just 55 percent.

The main reason given for the drop was high prices.

According to Vitolins, in order to maintain growth in the sector a fresh wave of investment in tourism services is needed.

Ironically, the TAVA boss' words came at almost the same time the Estonian government revealed a 32 million euro program to sell Estonia as a tourist destination, which will nearly double the tourism promotion budget over the next six years.

Inevitably, the program includes development of an electronic tourist information system and modernization of the www.visitestonia.com website.

"Building up the good reputation of Estonia as a tourist destination and raising awareness of it throughout the world will increase demand in Estonian products and services, not just in tourism products," said Economy Minister Juhan Parts.

If the ambitious scheme can turn millions of online visitors into genuine tourists, it could have a significant impact in reversing the slowdown in tourist numbers.