RIGA - This year, the total number of tourists visiting Riga might reach 80 percent of the figure achieved before the pandemic in 2019, which means that the number of tourists in the city is likely to surpass one million again, Rita Petersone, a representative of the capital city's investment and tourism agency LiveRiga, told LETA.
She said that in the second half of last year the tourism industry started to recover from the impact of the pandemic and war, with tourist numbers in the summer reaching around 60 percent of the figure recorded in 2019 when Riga received 1.4 million foreign guests.
According to Petersone, Riga was the most popular destination with Baltic travelers last year, with over 200,000 travelers from Latvia's neighbor countries visiting Riga in 2022. Tallinn, by comparison, received 110,000 travelers from Latvia and Lithuania and Vilnius was visited by 77,000 Latvians and Lithuanians. Riga is also the leading Baltic destination for travelers from Germany and the UK.
"However, the absence of Russian and Belarusian tourists has been negatively affecting the overall tourist traffic and statistics," Petersone said. She indicated that while Vilnius last year received over 100,000 tourists from these countries, just 34,000 Russians and Belarusians came to Riga. For the time being, it has been tough to replace these tourists with travelers from Scandinavia and Western Europe, Petersone admitted.
The LiveRiga representative noted that data for last year and January of this year show that the inflow of tourists from the Baltic states, Finland and the UK has been recovering at the fastest rate and nearing the level Riga saw in 2019. The German market has been recovering at a bit slower pace because this market is characterized by strong group tourism, which suffered the most from the negative impact of the war in Ukraine.
Asked how the tourism industry will be affected by such upcoming major events as the Song and Dance Festival, Ice-Hockey World Championship and the Positivus music festival, Petersone said that all these events are expected to boost the tourism industry and the Latvian capital city's economy. She underlined that all these events are being organized with the local government's financial support in order to promote tourism and economic activity in Riga.