Baltic tourism up despite economic woes

  • 2008-09-18
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

FINAL DESTINATION: Latvia and Estonia remain popular tourist destinations despite high inflation.

RIGA - Recent data has revealed that tourism is on the rise in Latvia and Estonia despite the countries' poor economic situation.
The Latvian Central Statistical Bureau reported on Sept. 16 that the number of visitors at hotels and other accommodation establishments was up by 6 percent year-on-year in the second quarter.
More than 420,000 people visited accommodation establishments in the second quarter, approximately 60 percent of whom were foreign tourists.

Tourism experts say that the trend is likely to continue despite the fact that Latvia still has the highest inflation in the EU 's 15.6 percent, after a drop of nearly 1 percent over the past month.
"In this year we forecast that statistics in tourism will be stable," Marita Neimane, a press officer for the Latvian Tourism Board, told The Baltic Times.

Neimane also said, however, that the numbers were likely to dip as the tourist season comes to a close.
"Of course in summer numbers will be higher than in autumn or in winter," she said.
Local residents, however, are more pessimistic about tourism in the country. Ilvars Jernacans, an architect working in Riga, said that the increase was largely due to the poor business environment in other areas.
"I think one point why tourism is increasing, is that actually there is nothing else to do in the business field. Just trading and tourism, everything else is not so stable," he said.
Jernacans also noted, however, that "we already have this image of our country as a sex tourism country," he said.

The statistics agency found that  most tourists 's nearly 15 percent 's came from Germany. Finland, Lithuania and Latvia ranked second, third and fourth with 11.2 percent, 9.1 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively.
More than three-quarters of foreign tourists coming to the country stayed in Riga, while about 10 percent stayed in the seaside resort town of Jurmala. A significantly smaller proportion of Latvians seeking accommodation 's less than 30 percent 's stayed in Riga.

In Estonia, meanwhile, the national statistics agency said that the use of accommodation establishments was up by 4 percent year-on-year in July. The agency noted that the number of foreign tourists was on the rise.
"In July 345,000 tourists used the services of accommodation establishments, which is 6,000 tourists more than in the same period of the previous year. The number of foreign tourists increased, the number of domestic tourists decreased," Helga Laurmaa said in the report.

"As usual, the share of foreign tourists in accommodation establishments accounted for about two-thirds of the total number of tourists," the report said.
In late August, the Estonian government highlighted the importance of tourism to the country by committing more than 400 million kroons (25.6 million euros) in subsidies to the industry.
"The aim of the subsidies is to raise the international competitiveness of Estonia as a travel destination through the development of innovative tourism products," the ministry was quoted as saying by the Baltic News Service.