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600 000 eiro vērtais «simtgades» stends stāv gandrīz tukšs

Expensive airport showcase questioned

A stand constructed at Rīga International Airport with the purpose of promoting Latvian business has come under scrutiny from LTV's De Facto investigative journalism show, which asked if it was worth the 600,000 euro price tag.

A report September 9 by Olga Dragileva drew attention to the fact that very little seems to actually happen at the stand, which was originally intended to serve as both a showcase of business opportunities and a place where jet-setting foreign investors could get information, arrange discussions and sign deals with Latvian partners.

Yet as LTV's cameras showed, activity at the stand appeared to be minimal.

LTV recalled that the stand of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA), titled "Magnetic Latvia" was officially opened at Riga Airport six months ago. 440,000 euros were allocated from the state budget, with nearly 200,000 euros more from LIAA's funding (to be spent over three years).

The airport stand - only accessible to people who are flying, being in the new arrival/departure terminal - will stay in place until 2020. According to LIAA estimations at the launch, over 280 thousand people will visit during this period, of which more than 5,000 will be entrepreneurs.

Six months have passed and according to LTV's statistics, use of the expensive space does not appear to be great. Mostly, it sees visits by tour operators and airline delegations, while investment agency guests who are "on their way" into the city may be brought in to look at the premises - typically one or two such visits per month. April and August saw one media visit too - a representative of Finnair's inflight magazine in August. The room was also used to host meetings of officials of the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Culture.

LIAA Director Andris Ozols defended the project, telling De Facto that welcoming delegations is not the most important part of the use of the stand. A lot of emphasis is placed on ordinary visitors, which he said ranged from 1,500 to 2,000 people a month, and he described De Facto itself as a "negative show."

However, concrete statistics about who is using the stand and why appear to be thin on the ground. De Facto spent a few days watching the stand and their surveillance suggested that even at the so-called airport "peak hours" it sees very few visitors. A handful of tourists were observed, including one visitor who said he worked in IT and had been intrigued by the computer programming and technology he saw on the stand.

Director of the Foreign Trade Promotion Department of LIAA Aija Jaunzeme acknowledged that the stand had not performed exactly as planned, but that the situation was improving.

"We hope to develop it. We understand our mistakes and problems. We are looking for solutions and we think that we will gradually succeed," Jaunzeme said.

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