RIGA - Tourism in Latvia is considered as one of the best-organized industries in Latvia, said Artis Kampars, the economy minister, during his speech at last year’s Latvian Tourism Forum, 2010. The event is a meeting place for professionals in order to support discussions about the business, and was the venue to talk about what had been done during 2010.
The ‘Live Riga’ brand, under a microscope at the meeting, has been a particularly controversial issue for the Riga tourism environment. Regardless of the differences of opinion among the industry participants, a significant contribution from it has been made for the Riga tourism industry.
The history of this Riga city brand is quite complex. In 1980, the Latvian artist Valdis Celms created the sign ‘Riga’ which welcomes travellers at the city borders. This official emblem is considered as the symbol of the capital city. In Oct. 28, 2009, the Riga Tourism Development Office (RTAB) was established by the Riga City Council, airBaltic, the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Latvia (LVRA) and the Association of Latvian Travel Agents (ALTA). One of the main targets of RTAB was to innovate, using the new brand ‘Live Riga,’ in order to advertise Riga as ‘Capital of the North.’
The strategy and planning for Riga’s tourism business centered on this brand. According to the ‘Live Riga’ Web page, the RTAB motto is: “What’s good for residents is good for tourists!” It is also mentioned that “tourists, residents, entrepreneurs and the municipality will benefit from the success of LIVE RIGA.” The main goals of the campaign are to offer a pleasant environment and fully available information for guests, as well as to collaborate with businesses in order to support new possibilities for profit and promotion. A possible increase in income for the municipality is also mentioned. These are only a few of the main targets for support of the long-term tourism business in Riga.
The graphics of the ‘Live Riga’ logo are easily understandable; the message is clear and neutral. According to the daily Diena Web page, Eriks Stendzenieks, the director of the advertising agency MOOZ, considers that the brand design is succesful.
The brand is divided into five parts, each representing certain content including events, acommodation possibilities or shopping places in the city. ‘Meet Riga’ is the last section and is targeted to develop corporate tourism.
Gastons Neimanis, the director of RTAB, says that a new conception of the tourism exhibition stand is planned to be established, as an increase of corporate travel volume in Riga is an issue.
Nonetheless, ‘Live Riga’ has shown good results. According to Central Statistical Bureau information, the increase of tourists in Latvia in the past year has been marked. Data show that the biggest increase of visits from abroad was from Russia, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania and Finland.
Strong collaboration between local entrepreneurs is required in any case to avoid a lack of coordination. Atis Gaiduks, representative of travel agency FTB, says that collaboration with ‘Live Riga’ has been succesful, although there is not enough information about the possible ways to work more effectively.
Andris Skerskans, director of travel agency Naos, has a similar opinion. He also adds that much of the information from ‘Live Riga’ doesn’t reach travel agents. Since the Riga city brand is comparatively new in the industry, there are several gaps in its product development. This includes information on weekend breaks for leisure travellers, one-day excursions outside of Riga, cultural events and other possibilities.
Irina Setun, representative of the Russian travel agency Kalevipoeg Ltd., said “The lack of full service excursions and leisure packages is still an issue in visiting more developed tourism regions, instead of Riga. Families with children or honeymooners would like to have a full board of offers including everything they need - hotel, transfers and professional guidance as well.”
Nevertheless, the future plans for 2011 include more activities supporting the audiovisual advertisment of Riga as well as using different media forms for promotion. RTAB is planning to explore five main social networks in order to communicate with potential customers. Those functions will be performed by the media agency Inspired Communications. According to Nozare.lv information, RTAB is putting a significant effort into adressing visitors from abroad. Currently social networks and ideas have not been specified.
Video material about Riga as a unique place to visit is an issue, says Neimanis. He says that five different videos are due to be produced within the project European Destinations of Excellence. This material represents such places in Latvia as Valmiera, Ventspils, Engure, Dundaga and Jurmala.
It is important to understand the qualities of Riga in creating the content of these products promoting the city as the ‘Capital of the North.’ “We need to concentrate on stories about Riga, which is the best way to create an interactive advertisement for the city,” concludes Kitija Gitendorfa, president of Association of Latvian Travel Agents.