Business-savvy Lithuanians buying into Latvian tourism sector

Lithuanian tourism entrepreneurs are increasingly buying up real estate in Latvia, particularly in the western Kurzeme region, Asnāte Ziemele of the Lauku Celotajs (Country traveller) organization said Friday.

Speaking on Latvian radio, Ziemele said Lithuanians were buying up property for rentals and recreation centers. Having started naturally enough investing in properties along the western Kurzeme coastline, they were now venturing farther afield to the north Kurzeme coast and the area around the town of Talsi.

As a result Latvian entrepreneurs will have to compete not only with each other but also with the Lithuanians, whose tax income will find its way into the Lithuanian rather than Latvian budget, Ziemele said.

"Lithuanians in general have a more business-oriented approach," said Ziemele, describing our southern neighbors as more willing to take investment risks and ''louder'' when it comes to promotion and marketing.

As Lithuania's own Baltic coastline is relatively small, it is not surprising to see Lithuanians looking north, Ziemele said.

"At the moment, driving along Kurzeme, you can see plenty signs advertising rentals in Lithuanian," said North, while admitting that in some instances the architecture of Lithuanian-owned rural tourism sites is at odds with the local Latvian styles, citing an example in the historic village of Koni.

Asked about the prospects for rural tourism in general this year, Ziemele predicted that while the number of tourists from Russia was sharply down, the loss was being more than outweighed by an increase in tourists from Germany, Great Britain and Scandinavia.

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