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Latvia's rural tourism industry hopes for local travelers this season

Last year, the tourism sector experienced a lot of changes, including an increased activity from local residents and travelers from neighboring countries. This year, the tourism season in Latgale region has started off quiet, with hopes that traveler activity will grow in July and August, Latvian Radio reported July 4.

In 2018, the Laimes (Happiness) Museum opened its doors in Indra, Krāslava parish, Belarus border area. It's a place that aims to give positive feelings, inspire, and show a variety of feelings of happiness. This tourism season has begun with small family tours, said Ilona Kangizere, director of the Museum.

“For the time being, people come in the circle of their family and mostly they are people who have already been vaccinated. People are coming and interest is huge and they call, but unfortunately, they are not large groups, let's see how it will be in July,” Kangizere said.

“In principle, July and August are the hottest time in any tourism sector here in Latgale. September, if nothing changes and we are allowed to travel with a large group, then we are looking forward to people in September and October, but I do not know because of the pandemic whether it will happen or not. “We had 4,000 [people] last year, 6,000 were scheduled to be welcomed this year, but I see it won't happen,” said the director.

On the shore of Lake Ildza, Skaista parish, the accommodation “Pazust Latgalē” opened its door during the pandemic. Its head Inga Gavrovska said they had nothing to complain about.  “Actually, we're pretty good, we probably can't complain – guests come, guests are satisfied, guests come back, then we have to conclude that we're doing well. We don't have free spots right now,” Gavrovska said.

Others say they are even lucky to start working during Covid-19.

“It must be said that, of course, from colleagues and those working in this area, we are hearing that we were lucky to have started work in Covid-19 because we had to attract the Latvian people directly, because, as we have been told, if it were not for Covid-19, it would be different and that a large part would be gone somewhere abroad. I would like to believe that we have succeeded anyway, because we know that our offer is something new, especially in Latgale,” Gavrovska said.

She acknowledged that this year a trend has emerged that people are canceling or rescheduling bookings more often, possibly changing their plans because other options have emerged. Anna Palelione, spokeswoman for the Latvian Rural Tourism Association, told Latvian Radio more about the beginning of this tourism season.

"The situation is also very different this year – still, small holiday houses, campsites where a family or a small company can stay are demanded, but larger guest houses are still doing poorly – hotels, holiday complexes, where the main source of income was the organization of events, larger weddings, workshops, camps. At the moment, these businesses are trying to get back to work, but many have problems with the workforce, employees who were on downtime in the winter have found employment opportunities elsewhere, both financially advantageous and with less contact with people. And in terms of trends, guests are canceling their bookings very often, bookings are made at the last minute and canceled at the last minute,” Palelione said.

A big rise on the foreign tourist side can't be expected this year. Local tourists who are free to choose their travel opportunities outside Latvia are also not as likely to stay in Latvia this year. 

“At the moment, we have the feeling that, compared to the previous year, this season will not be as successful as it was last year, because this year there is a tendency that many choose to spend their vacations outside Latvia, there are opportunities that have already been opened for many, but we will look forward to an equally nice and successful summer that will encourage our own citizens to stay here in Latvia, and enjoy our summer here,” Palelione said.

Tourism workers are adding to and changing their offers, adapting it to the current circumstances, thinking more about families, couples, and small groups.

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