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Monday 19.03.2018 | Name days: Jāzeps

Lithuanians and Estonians envy Latvians attracting tourists

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU, Riga Tourism Development Bureau head Gastons Neimanis

Riga Tourism Development Bureau head Gastons Neimanis

In terms of advertisements, we stand out among the EU cities in a positive light. Our southern neigbours Lithuaninas are especially jealous, also Estonians are growing more and more interested in what and how we are doing. Despite the cut funds, it is planned to spend one and a half million lats on Latvian publicity campaigns abroad, Riga Tourism Development Bureau (RTDB) head Gastons Neimanis told the business news portal BNN.

Given the tough economic situation, is the voting of Riga City Council members on RTDB annual budget smooth?

We have merged with the former Riga Tourism Coordination Centre and Board Members represent our interests in the City Council. We are lobbying. We are going through each and every step it takes for the money to be allocated. Despite the cut funds, in terms of advertisements, we stand out among the EU cities in a positive light. Our southern neigbours Lithuanians are especially jealous, also Estonians are growing more and more interested in what and how we are doing. It means they have noticed our activities. The greatest challange is to stick to the same 2010  advertising pace with smaller financing. We are to spend one and a half million lats on Latvian publicity campaigns abroad this year.

With the EU economy recovering, nothing is becoming cheaper. We, as a tourism marketing organization, try to operate smarter. We collaborate with ferries operator Tallink so that their specific offer complements information about Riga. Thus we also have an access to Tallink ad placement in Swedish mass media (30% discount in press). We are no longer collaborating with a single, but three advertising brokerage firms in each state to get the best prices. Since we ourselves are not organizing any major event in Riga, we have capacity enough to deal with this and promote it.

Does it pay back to invest in such campaigns?

2010 figures show 15% more overnight tourists visited Riga, which means 100 000 persons more. According to unofficial information, a single Russian tourist leaves about 400-500 EUR. Pure statistics suggests the minimum average spending of a foreign tourist makes up 51 lats. Thus Riga tourism sector businessmen made additional 5 million lats. Service sector brings one third of the revenue in the Riga municipal budget. Last year, we spent about 2 million lats in maintaining the bureau, advertising and welcoming foreign journalists. It means it has paid back completely.

Two videos – one about the Christmas Tree and another «Ten Things To Do in Riga» have received international tourism film festivals awards. With the project LIVE RĪGA, we have proven we are neither fearful, nor conservative. Moreover, we are carrying out this spring-summer campaign in 10 countries simultaneously. The good news is professional western tourism bureaus themselves are contacting us, because they are willing to sell Riga as a demanded destination.

Have such mistakes as in the very beginning of 2011 been done away? Namely, toursits faced closed shops, museums and inhospitable cafes.

In late 2011, we will have existed only for one and a half year, but still the situation is improving rapidly. There is growing trust in that it is worth marketing the country and the capital city. The number of Christmas and New Year guests from CIS countries was a considerable one. Also, visa application claims from Ukraine have doubled this year. We have coordinated further activities with the Hotel and Restaurant Association and Latvian Traders Association.

Moreover, in December 2010, we managed to boost the numbers of tourists above the peak in 2008. The festival of light «Staro Rīga – You Beam Too!» will definitely form part of the complex we are going to boast about. It is one of the key events of Riga attractiveness. Hotel industry representatives have realized it is no worth setting up campaigns themselves, because we ensure comprehensive and massive campaigns aimed at the neighboring countries, Scandinavia, Russia and Germany. Our partners also benefit from visits of foreign journalists.

Isn’t it too early to launch MEET RIGA if the International Exhibition Centre construction is not yet started by the airport?

No international events take place in Riga each weekend, thus the hotel occupancy rate is not sufficient. We should not rush with Riga Messe. It is wrong to think Riga has dropped out of conference tourism sector. These roads are parallel – contruction of the Messe and conference tourism attraction to Radisson Blu Hotel Latvia for up to 1000 members. I believe us taking part in international exhibitions will pay back and the number of cooperative events will climb. Of course, we will not yet attract any huge cooperative events this year. Because there is a tender and assesors come beforehand.

Night life, ice fishing, quadracycle rides by the river Lielupe in summer and saunas at night allure Turkish businessmen, however, it is the strict visa regime that intervenes with this.

Riga is still an attractive destination of British bachelor parties. Why can’t we get rid of the image of «cheap girls»?

It is us ourselves worrying about that the most. We are not advertising this image on purpose, that’s for sure. Tourist flow from Great Britain and Ireland has subsided. Previously they believed they could do everything in Riga, but our State police and Tourism Police taught them a lesson, showing that this is a civilized country. Riga is the third biggest metropolitan city right after St Petersburg and Stockholm, thus the night life is flourishing. However, there are also many intelligent places for various musical tastes, with not a touch of sex tourism. We do not include in search engine any hotels with a questionable reputation. We consult the Tourism Police. But that’s only normal that tourists do not go to bed at 10 pm. Of course, they are partying, aren’t we Latvians doing the same while abroad?

Should horse rider police be resumed in Riga parks?

The heart of the city is Old Riga. It is compact and dedicated to pedestrians and bicyclists. The Police is there, but they are not disturbing tourists and locals. If the horse rider police was more like a decoration, then yes.

Often there are discussions why we are not selling tickets to the changing of the guards at the The Freedom Monument (Latvian: Brīvības piemineklis). Possibly there should be a sign informing about the times when this is going to take place, so that tourists can take a picture.

Won’t Riga lose budget tourists due to gaining avio fuel and tickets?

Ticket prices will not be raised considerably to maintain the passenger flow. There will be combined flights or installment payments, which is already a standard. Riga with its reasonable local costs will still be an attractive city. For the most part, it is transit passengers that come to us. Similarly, hotels should not do dumping too much, because tourists go where it is pleasant to go, thus the price is secondary.

How are you attracting tourists with LIVE RIGA?

First of all its in the leading national media and their weekend editions. Then it is outdoor advertising, to be launched twice this year. It is also via Ryanair and airBaltic onboard magazines, Russian airlines, Latvian Railway magazine Railway Outlook, Tallink booklets. Riga airport is also developing as a transit hub, so we are also placing additional environment ads in this zone to transit passengers to notice the offer and consider it for their future holidays.

Do you collaborate with travel guide developers?

Private agencies make up one part (Riga in Your Pocket, Riga-in-Sight, ect.). They collaborate with LIVE RIGA voluntarily. There are also informative partners of ours that want to make use of our advertising channels in tourism offices. The price for an advertisment in a well noticeable place is symbolic. Other operate with hotel chains more. Since we do not have journalists, just a single artist, we will not develop the content ourseleves. Riga A3 map will be for free, while tourists will have to pay for a travel guide with detailed information.

Can RIGA CARD promote tourism service?

RIGA CARD is a patented trade mark and a private TourInfo business, stemming from 1999. It is priced from 10 lats per 24h to 18 lats per 72 h and includes unlimited public transport use within the limits of the city, Riga in Your Pocket travel guide, Hansabuss tour, 50% discount in Amberway taxis, discounts in museums, restaurants, bars, car rent companies, hotels, ect. We are intermediaries to help pass these cards to tourists. We want to help them, because RIGA CARD is based on famous European practice of CITY CARD.

Do you want tourists to linger here and visit castles, palaces and manors as well?

Yes that’s our joint aim with the Association of Latvian Castles, Palaces and Manors. We have also signed an agreement on that. Currently, tourists stay in Latvia about 2.2 nights, so most of them are city break or holiday tourists. This is where we are ahead of Prague, Budapest and others. For the most part these tourists are coming here to relax, while Lithuanians are doing both relaxing and practicing winter sports. Estonians are active and want to explore, so they are going with their trailers via Latvia to Southern Europe.

Upon collaborating with the Tourism State Agencies and managers of castles and palaces, we want to show the most beautiful places encountered outside Riga. Castles, palaces and manors can attract luxury tourists. Last year, Riga is a destination of 77% tourists, while it was 80% a year ago. There is growing interest about Latvia, with Riga being the main driving force.

This is where we also see a chance for MEET (seminars, conferences, meetings), with tens of people staying in a castle, palace or manor with all the necessary technologies. Thanks to MEET RIGA we are going to get back on track and win various tenders on organizing events of European scale.


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