Tourism needs government support

  • 2000-04-06
RIGA (LETA) – The tourism sector needs to be supported at the government policy level in Latvia, participants at an international conference in Riga on tourism education, practice and study reported at a press conference March 30.

Education on tourism is lacking necessary terminology and methodology. Higher education is also insufficiently linked with the tourism business and as a result, students do not get sufficient work experience.

Participants of the conference noted that the problems are similar in all Eastern European states. Representatives of Latvia, Ukraine and Belarus all said that the tourist flow between these states is limited by artificial barriers in crossing the border, obtaining visas and other formalities.

Ivars Strautins, chairman of the Business School Turiba, stressed that the tourism sector must not forget the Eastern market (Russia, Belarus). Strautins noted that tourism is key in preserving the country's national identity. "If [the seaside resort] Jurmala were being visited by the average Russian, they would leave Latvia with a completely different picture of Latvia in their minds," he said.

At this time, due to the media, many Russians believe that Latvia is a land of fascists, where the ethnic Russian minority is being oppressed, but if the average Russian tourist came to Latvia, he would see that Latvia is a beautiful and friendly state, said Strautins.

A representative from Belarus also said that positive information is of utmost importance, since the things Belarussians learn from the mass media do not contribute to the inflow of travelers in Latvia from Belarus.

Andris Jaunsleinis, chairman of the Latvian Union of Local Governments, noted that the development of tourism in Latvia depends on funding, roads, communications and energy.

To boost the development of rural tourism, communications must be improved, since modern people do not wish to be isolated, and the mobile communications network is not covering the entire state yet.

The rural highway support program is also ineffective, and there are other factors that hinder the development of tourism.

Jaunsleinis noted that the development of tourism could be started with minimum means, for example by putting up signs. Judging by the current situation with Latvia's roads signs, it can be concluded that Latvia's residents are all orienteering champions, commented Jaunsleins.

The conference was held at the Business School "Turiba".

A student job fair was established within the framework of the conference, where information on students wishing to work in the sector was gathered.