Although several cruise lines are cautious due to the geopolitical situation and the number of cruise ships will be smaller this year in Riga than last year, the number of passengers could be even higher than previously, said Viesturs Zeps, Chairman of Riga Free Port Board.
"99 cruise ships arrived last year, an absolute record in the history of Riga port. What is characteristic of this year is that the ships that come are a bit larger in their total capacity, and the number of passengers is higher.
"If last year they had a 60-70% fill, these ships are actually coming full this year. Last year there were 75,000 to 80,000 tourists, and this year there will be 80,000 or 90,000. Passengers come from all sorts of countries. Above all, of course, it is Europe. We calculated that last year's cruise season brought us, the port, the stores, the suppliers, and to those helping to service, repair, and so on, EUR 10 million. So, I think, it is enough money that makes it important to work to make us earn even more."
The advantage of the capital is that cruise ships actually call in the center and passengers can walk to Old Riga. Ieva Lasmane, head of the Riga Investment and Tourism Agency, said that the tourism offer in Rīga is broad enough:
"For cruise ship passengers, [..] there are companies working with these ships and already preparing touring offers, which are sold on board, and immediately out of the ship, these passengers also travel on these tours. The smaller part, however, is those who choose to go to town themselves. They mostly come to our tourism information center. The biggest interest is in Old Town, St. Peter's Church, some choose to take a map and go on their own. [..]"
The most popular destination in Latvia, visited by 80% of foreign tourists, is Rīga, but cruise ships last year and also this year call in Liepāja. Latvian Investment and Development Agency Director Inese Šīrava pointed out that although tourists spend a short time on the shore, they still use local services.
"There are, first of all, fewer cruises in Liepāja, ten times fewer. But the economy of Liepāja is also, say, much smaller than Rīga. For Liepāja, this is an additional reason to attract foreign tourists. On the one hand, it is a challenge to service them, on the other hand, it is also very positive that it now returns revenues to local tourism providers, both for guides and tourists, for transport services, for caterers, it is indeed an additional support for the industry.
"We do not organize special advertisements for the attraction of cruise passengers, but I think that the whole of this is helped by the total national advertisements of Latvia, which we advertise in our target markets, which, by the way, are the main representative markets for cruise passengers, such as Germany or Britain, or the United States," said Šīrava.
In order to allow more cruise ships to be docked in Rīga port in the future, a new, longer passenger terminal is planned to be built in the port. Port representatives also continue negotiations on the renewal of scheduled ferry traffic on the Riga-Stockholm and Riga-Helsinki routes.