Latvia, as well as other Baltic states, are seeing a boost in tourist arrivals as the low cost airline model moves eastwards across Europe and the market is still not saturated.
That was the consensus at the beginning of the regional conference on tourism communications for Europe, (TOURCOM), taking place in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
The opening ceremony was attended by H.E. Mrs Vaira
Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia (pictured) and organised by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO).
She remarked on the rise of tourism as a force in the Latvian economy and how its image is developing from “the red blob that once grouped us all together as the Soviet Union.”
“Low cost carriers have driven the price down and increased competition in the market place,” says Artus Krisjanis Karins, the Minister of Economics of Latvia.
“We have more tourists coming to Latvia then there are men, women and children in the country.”
Nearly three million people are expected to visit the Baltic state between Lithuania and Estonia in 2005. The population of the country is 2.9 million.
Latvia now has six flights a day from the UK and is serviced by both Ryanair and easyJet. International tourism arrivals for 2004 were 1.1 million in 2004, up 11 percent on the previous year.
“It is a trend that started ten years ago, for 2005 the Baltic states have seen a 22 percent increase in tourism arrivals,” says Luigi Cabrini, the WTO representative for Europe.
“Low cost carriers are changing the environment in the Baltic states.”
Cabrini also highlighted that the rise in oil prices had yet to fully impact the travel and tourism industry.
“The rising price of oil has still not been fully realized by the market and has yet to be passed on to the consumer. At the moment it is still being absorbed by the industry,” says Cabrini.
The event was also attended by Francesco Frangialli the secretary-general of the WTO.