RIGA - Though Latvia and Estonia both witnessed a rise last year in the number of foreigners who came to visit, according to recent data, the latter received about 50 percent more.
In Latvia, where 8 percent of visitors came by plane, the vast majority (80 percent) came by road, the country's statistics office reported. Foreigners stayed an average of 1.9 days, with 61 percent remaining for only one day and a mere 4 percent visiting for at least seven nights.
Though the statistics reveal that most foreigners traveling to Latvia came from neighboring countries - Lithuanians and Estonians made up 31 percent and 26 percent of visitors, respectively - a considerably large number of people arrived in the country for the first time. The data shows that 30 percent of foreigners were in Latvia for the first time, and more than half (52 percent) of the total number stayed in the capital city of Riga.
Generally, the number of foreigners traveling to Latvia in 2003 reached the highest number in the past decade, jumping 8.7 percent higher to reach 2.4 million. This can be compared with the 2.2 million foreigners entering the country in 2002 and 1.6 million in 1995.
Although Estonia's population is nearly half of its Latvian neighbor, in 2003 the northern most Baltic state hosted an even greater number of foreigners, 3.3 million, which is 4 percent more than the year before.
Figures from the tourism promotion unit of the state-financed organization Enterprise Estonia revealed that 42 percent, or 1.4 million, of the total number of visitors stayed overnight. The biggest increase in the numbers was seen in visitors from Germany, Norway, Poland and Italy.
Estonia's efforts to promote itself as a travel destination as well as the opening of new airlines are two of the factors that contributed to the rise in visitors.