In July, the number of foreign tourists in Latvia doubled, compared with a year earlier, according to the Central Statistical Bureau data. The most popular destination is Rīga, which has been visited by nearly 60% of foreign tourists entering Latvia. A total of 16% of tourists have visited Jūrmala, followed by Liepāja, Sigulda, and Ventspils. Most tourists arrived in Latvia from Lithuania and Estonia, followed by Finland and Poland, while the number of tourists coming from Russia is decreasing.
Riga Investment and Tourism Agency representative Ieva Lasmane said that after the war began, a large proportion of tourist group bookings were canceled. Around 60 to 70% of the pre-pandemic number of tourists were served in the capital. Not all hotels resumed work in Rīga this summer.
“Firstly, Mogotel, they have a lot of hotels. In order not to compete with their own hotels, they can choose not to open for a moment. This is not only influenced by the number of tourists, but also by the lack of staff. Tourists from Russia still show up in statistics, which certainly cannot be compared to 2018 or 2019, when the total number of Russian tourists was close to 200,000 per year. On the overall background, however, it has previously been around 10-13%. It is clear that it is very difficult to replace such a large mass at once, but we have invested more resources in the German market, which is a big market. We have a lot of direct flights to different German cities, so it is very easy to get to Rīga. The second of these larger markets is Britain, which has been growing steadily all these years, also with very good airlines and, of course, our close Nordic countries, Scandinavia,” said Lasmane.
Most Russian tourists have been resting in the resort town of Jūrmala until now. In September this year, the Cabinet decided that the entry of citizens of the Russian Federation to Latvia for tourism and recreational purposes was limited. Madara Zahare, the senior expert in the tourism and business department of Jūrmala, said that the largest number of Russian tourists - a quarter of the total number of tourists - visited Jūrmala in 2019, but already last year their number decreased significantly - to 2%, and this year they represent 3% of the total number of tourists.
“It should be noted that Russian citizens have purchased property in Jurmala, as well as when traveling, they tend to stay at relatives, friends, apartments or private apartments that do not provide data to the CSP. Consequently, we assume that, in fact, this number may be higher than that shown by the specific data. The first half of this year, in general, has been more vivid in terms of the number of foreign tourists than, for example, last year, and we have also received feedback from the major hotels in Jurmala for this summer season, that, compared to the previous 2 years, it has been all very good and pleasant, and there were no restrictions,” said Zahare.
Santa Graikste, executive director of the Latvian Association of Hotels and Restaurants, said that there is uncertainty about how tourism will be affected by the high energy prices. Currently, last-minute hotel bookings are carried out by even tourists from Germany who usually did this for 3 or 4 months before the trip.
“For the most successful time in the season, we can talk about July, August, when really the season was what it should be, and some even reported historically best results. Bookings are coming for October, but it is hard to say about November and December because these bookings are made very shortly before. Therefore, it would also be important that with support of the state institutions and industry, there would be the return of major international events, conferences, seminars in Latvia,” said Graikste.
In the 7 months of this year, 1.2 million foreign and local tourists were served in Latvian tourist accommodation, which is 85% more than during the corresponding period last year but is still nearly 30% less than in 2019.