If, before the pandemic, the hospitality sector produced around EUR one billion in its external trade balance, it has now fallen to 100 million. Despite the fact that Latvia is actively investing in airBaltic, the total number of passengers served by Lithuanian airports is higher than at Riga airport, which has never occurred in the last 30 years, the head of the Latvian Hotel and Tourism Association Jānis Naglis said in the broadcast.
Latvia is the only country in the European Union where the drop in tourism in 2021 was even higher than in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. According to Naglis, this is due to the inconsistent government policy which has led to Lithuania and Estonia running far ahead in the field. Latvians are now travelling to neighbouring countries to do sports and to rest, while local hotels have to lock their doors.
Meanwhile, advisor to the Finance Minister Karīna Ploka said that the Ministry said that support programs had been in place for both the tourism and the beauty industry, and that they had been applied widely and quickly. Jānis Naglis and the founder of the Latvian Health and Fitness Association Gints Kuzņecovs did not agree with this, indicating that the support received by the industry for January, February and March was actually received in October. This delay, according to Kuzņecovs, was due to the lack of capacity of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency to process it.
There are also concerns at the moment about the next phase of aid.
A spokesman for the Health and Fitness Association said his sector had been closed for eight months, but if compared with Lithuania and Estonia, it can be seen that there, for example, is no 15-square-meter limit requirement per person, only is a limit of 1,000 people indoors. In Latvia and Estonia, only people with Covid-19 certificates can enter fitness centers, but there are no area or working time limits in Estonia.
Neighboring countries were also mentioned by Naglis. According to him, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš is very fond of talking about changing habits and adapting. Naglis pointed out with irony that Latvian residents have a whole series of habits that have changed now. For example, organizing corporate events in Lithuania and Estonia, since they are allowed there. Sports clubs and teams may also organize their training camps in Lithuania and Estonia, but in Latvia the sector concerned has lost money.
Jānis Naglis also said that people from Russia are traveling more actively to Estonia as it recognizes the Sputnik vaccination for entry.
As reported earlier, the hospitality sector has requested the responsible ministers to step down as they consider government decisions inadequate.