Industry reflects as chief leaves state tourism agency

Changes at the top of the state Tourism Development Agency (TAVA) are prompting debate in the industry over how best to support the tourism sector and promote Latvia amongst domestic and foreign travelers.

Some proposals have even called for the combining of different agencies now doing similar, and possibly superfluous work. For instance, TAVA could feasibly be collapsed into the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA) or the Latvian Institute (LI), which also are charged with promoting Latvia abroad. However most industry representatives have not come out strongly in favor of such a reorganization.

“The brand image of the country requires, in my view, stronger cooperation between the organizations that promote this – LI, TAVA and LIAA. Each fills its role as the resources are divvied, but I think we should seriously consider moving them closer and strengthening our combined power,” Economics Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola told Latvian Radio Sunday.

Finding a new leader at the agency is the top priority, she added. However, she also admitted that TAVA had been having some “significant capacity problems” and had “lots of other important homework to do,” referring to the agency’s delay and botching of a tender to promote Riga as Europe’s Culture Capital last year.

After serving five years as head of the TAVA, Armands Slokenbergs is moving on to new challenges as a marketing specialist at the school internet portal E-klase and youth TV channel Chaula TV.

Though opinions differ in the sector, Latvia’s Hotel and Restaurant Association leader Jānis Vālodze told LR that the work of TAVA, in his view, had improved significantly in recent years. He said coordination amongst the agencies was not a problem anymore, whereas the lack of it had been a problem before.

“Most think we should keep on as is, TAVA is its own agency where we can lodge our opinions, set goals and agendas,” Vālodze said.

The issue of active promotion in tourism policy has come to the fore as Russia’s economic crisis has caused the number of Russian tourists to Latvia to plummet, while new travelers from western and Asian countries have yet to arrive in sufficient force to compensate for the fall.

Representatives of TAVA manning Latvia’s national stand at the Adventur travel expo in Vilnius Monday told news agency LETA that Lithuanians were very interested in Latvia’s tourist destinations, especially on the Kurzeme coast.

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Economy
Economy