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Wednesday 21.11.2018 | Name days: Andis, Zeltīte
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Heatwaves drive Lithuanians to lakes, rivers and Baltic Sea

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Palanga, Lietuva

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

When dozens of Lithuanian municipalities are under a state of emergency due to the lasting drought, there is one municipality on the Baltic coast than cannot be any happier about the rainless months, Palanga.

The scorching sun and the sweltering temperatures have worked wonders for it so far. To date, Palanga has seen a double-digit, year-on-year, bump upward in tourist numbers in May and June and the sunny, literally, weather forecasts stoke even more optimism for the upcoming summer months.

«The unseasonably hot weather in May and June has sent hordes of visitors to Palanga. Coupled with the new exciting local infrastructure, the start of this high summer season is excellent,» Rasa Kmitienė, director of Palanga Tourism Information Centre, told BNN.

According to her, local businesses offer a bigger than usually variety of leisure and amusement forms for all this summer.

«Palanga has done a lot in diverting the crowd from its main Basanavičius promenade to the adjacent streets and hot spots,» she remarked.

In the past, Palanga would be enticing to rowdy and raucous youngsters, who would come here to carouse from the neighbouring provincial towns, but, in recent years, the visitors of the kind have nearly petered out, she noted.

«Palanga offers a good variety of services and prices. Those with a thicker wallet can stay in a posh 150-something-a-night hotel and those less well-to-do can pick a 5-euro-a-night accommodation in the modest-looking guest houses,» the Centre director said.

Weary and wary of the bad last summer season, marked with abundant precipitation, Palanga hotel and cafe owners hope plenty of sunshine will not leave them any time soon.

«I would say May and June of the year made up what we lost last year due to the incessant rains,» said Adelina Sabaliauskaitė, chairwoman of „Palangos rūpestėlis», an organisation uniting the resort‘s private sector accommodation providers.

The prices in Palanga, however, are set to edge up from July 1 as the high summer season kicks in. Some note, however, that they can go up steeper than usually. Again, due to the larger throngs of people bound to the coast.

Ingrida Valaitienė, president of the association of Palanga Hotels and Restaurants, also noted to BNN that the prolonged waves of unusual heat in May and June have been a big game-changer this season.

«All registered higher attendance rates,» she said.

On top of the Palanga visitor chart sits Lithuanians, who make up can 60-70 percent of all the visitors. They are followed by Latvians, Belarusians, Russians, Germans and Scandinavians.

«As a rule, Lithuanians favour last-minute bookings, the foreigners plan their trip to Palanga well in advance,» she noted.

Around 70 hotels in the resort can accommodate over 15 thousand people at the same time. Last year, 307 thousand tourists stayed in Palanga, an increase of 107 thousand from the previous year.

Unlike Palanga, the resort of Druskinininkai in southern Lithuania did not feel any heat-related surge in tourist numbers.

«On the contrary, we always do better when the sun hides behind the clouds. With plenty of sunshine outside, people seek escape near water, the lakes and the rivers or go to the Baltic coastline,» Rimantas Palionis, director of the Druskinininkai Tourism Information Centre, told BNN.

As a matter of fact, the last summer, when Lithuania was soaked with rain, has brought in some record tourist flows to Druskininkai.

According to the centre head, the resort welcomes around 330 thousand visitors every year.

Asked to discern any peculiarities of this season, Palionis noted a significant increase of Jewish guests.

«It is a result of the new direct flight between Vilnius and Tel Aviv,» he underscored.

Before the Jews would arrive in summer only, not in fall or winter, he accentuated.

Druskininkai has also registered a 16 per cent hike in Slavic tourists this year.

«That the Belarusians come in big numbers is not a surprise as we have a Belarusian company-run sanatorium over here. However, the year-on-year increase of 16 per cent in Russian tourists in the first quarter of the year is a nice surprise,» he remarked.

There was also a considerable growth of Estonian visitors, which cannot be explained easily too.

Meanwhile, Birštonas, the most rapidly growing Lithuanian resort, has seemingly also benefited from high temperatures.

«We had some really big flows here in May and June. Many of the visitors told us they sought refuge here from the heatwaves in their urbanized town and cities nearby,» Ramunė Glatkauskaitė, a representative of the Birštonas Tourism Information Centre, told BNN.

Notably, Birštonas sits on the bank of the river Nemunas, thence the good selection of water activities in the balneological resort.

In general, the statistics of Lithuania‘s Tourism Department show a significant increase in inbound tourism this year. In the first quarter of 2018, most visitors arrived from Russia – 43 thousand (a 14.9 per cent increase, year-on-year), and Belarus – 36 thousand, according to the Department. From 20 to 30 thousand tourists arrived from Latvia, Poland, Germany and Ukraine. About 10 thousand Estonians and Brits arrived, while there were about six thousand visitors from both Sweden and Norway.

Lithuania is also increasingly visited by tourists from other foreign countries. The inflow from China increased by 23 per cent, from Japan by 15 per cent and from Israel by 5.7 per cent.

When it comes to the capital city of Vilnius, it was visited by 7.5 per cent more people than last year in the same period. About 77 per cent of all visitors of the city were foreign tourists – almost 161 thousand people. According to official statistics, Vilnius hotels received more than 209 thousand guests.


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