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Latvian tourist numbers down by 10% in one year

Panama City, Panama
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Latvian tourist numbers down by 10% in one year

Just read this in the Russian newspaper 'Bisnes i Baltika' (Business and Baltic) that number of foreign visitors to Latvia is down by 10% in the first quarter of 2008 compared to the first quarter of 2007. Headlined "the drunken English era has come to an end" and illustrated by a photo of a Northern Ireland football fan (!) it predicts a grim three years ahead for the tourism industry with hotels and restaurants closing down.

It interviews Martin Schaeffer, head of a tourism consultancy, Kohl and partners who says: "stag tourism in Riga has come to an end. Latvia has a lot of potential but isn't using it. It needs to offer visitors something unique and extravagant which they haven't seen before."

His model for the future...? (I nearly choked on my coffee with laughter) Building new posher hotels like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai in the hope that loyalty to hotel brands will encourage more upmarket visitors to Latvia, as the economic situation doesn't allow for the current prices to be lowered. More sensibly, he states that one under exploited market is the market for business conferences, which he says that Latvia's hotels currently don't have the facilities to cope with. Although I'm still doubtful that it can compete with already established markets.

Most of what's said in the article has been long predicted here but I'm afraid that if Latvian businesses and their consultants think that the solution to declining visitor numbers is to build newer, even more expensive hotels then they've spectacularly missed the point. The whole reason for the boom in visitor numbers in the first place was the perception that Latvia was cheap. By engaging in a short term policy of getting rich quick, rather than a longer term goal of keeping prices reasonable and encouraging repeat visitors, many Latvian businesses have sowed the seeds of their own demise.

So what's the future for Riga old town? Boarded up shops mixed with a few stella pubs and steak chaos branches?

Telford, United...
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1. Re: Latvian tourist numbers down by 10% in one year

It's a pity that Riga Aiport's statistics aren't up to date as they only show January's figures for this year so far, but January's passenger numbers were up by 20% over 2007 and aircraft movements were up by 19%. I wonder how accurate 'Bisnes i Baltika' is.

Having said that I was in Riga last week and it did seem fairly quiet, although I did see a few stag groups in some of the Old Town bars.

One large group of 20 or so came into Malibu Pizza whilst I was having lunch with some business colleagues. They left about 5 minutes later. I don't know if they were asked to leave or whether there were not enough tables free but I suspect it was the former as the place was not very busy at all.

It's time that the Stag Party syndrome came to an end in Riga, the Old Town is far too small to assimilate them and it's pretty obvious that they are not welcome.

Panama City, Panama
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2. Re: Latvian tourist numbers down by 10% in one year

Yes, the fact that 'Bisnes i Baltiya' apparently can't distinguish between English and British hardly builds confidence. However, the Old Town definitely seems quieter than the equivalent period last year.

Also Dienas business recently reported that number of hotel visitors had fallen by 3% this year compared to the first quarter of 2007. see

www.balticbusinessnews.com/Default2.aspx…

Like most Riga residents I'd also be happy to see the back of the stag parties but I also believe that businesses in the centre have built themselves up on the strength of them coming and don't appear to have a 'Plan B' for when the stag fad moves on - which it soon will.

Telford, United...
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3. Re: Latvian tourist numbers down by 10% in one year

Plan 'B'? I didn't even know they had a plan 'A' lol

Seriously though, I think what will happen is that once the Stag parties have decided to go elsewhere there will be a period of adjustment. You are right in saying that many businesses rely too much on the easy income from Stags and some of them will fold without a doubt.

But, once Riga has cleaned it's act up, I think that it will start to attract more of the 'cultural tourists', people with more disposable income who will spend much more per head than the Stags do.

I can't quite see the Burj Al Arab in Old Town somehow! :) But I could see Riga becoming a popular destination for conferences and conventions. It is, without doubt, a beautiful city.

Newport Beach...
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4. Re: Latvian tourist numbers down by 10% in one year

Four of us (2 older married couples) in our 50s are coming to Riga to visit for a couple of nights on the way to Poland. We don't have a stag party to go as we are well beyond that. We were hoping to see some typical Latvian local life and culture. What do you suggest we do while we are in Riga during the first couple of days in May? We will perhaps have one or two beers in the local pub but that is about it for drinking! We want to see what Riga has to offer besides stag party atmosphere. Hope we aren't making a mistake staying there.

Suggested activites welcome!

5. Re: Latvian tourist numbers down by 10% in one year

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