On 12 November, the tourism industry’s most important annual event was held in Riga – the Latvian Tourism Forum, which gather together representatives of the industry, municipalities, public authorities and others. Members of the Forum looked back at the past year and discussed future development trends and cooperation opportunities in the tourism sector.
The Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Economics Raimonds Aleksejenko presented the Latvia’s vision for tourism 2020+, which aims to develop sustainable tourism in Latvia, while maintaining what has been achieved so far and promoting the creation of new tourism products based on local values and lifestyles.
“The first step to get ahead is to look back and evaluate what has been done. Much has been done so far and the tourism sector has become an important part of Latvian economy, which makes a significant contribution to the country’s economic growth and is also one of the largest export sectors in Latvia,” admitted R.Aleksejenko.
The tourism sector contributes to Latvian economic growth about 1 billion euro annually. The sector employs 77 thousand people or provides 9% of all jobs in Latvia. Tourism exports grew by 10% last year, reaching 1.4 million euro and accounting for 17% of total services exports.
“We have already developed strong and competitive products in Latvia in the field of nature, business, health and cultural tourism. The sector is experiencing success, but there are also serious challenges – the number of foreign tourists in Latvia is increasing, but their individual spending is not increasing. There are still a number of challenges to achieve sustainable growth and international competitiveness of the Latvian tourism sector,” says the Deputy State Secretary of MoE.
Therefore, the Ministry of Economics, in cooperation with the University of Latvia and the researchers involved by it, is working on the Latvian Tourism Development Plan for 2021-2027 (hereinafter referred to as the Plan). The plan outlines a series of measures for more rapid development of the tourism sector in the future, including the mandatory promotion of tourist income and increasing the number of local trips and spending in Latvia.
The plan also provides for a more thorough assessment of the return on investment, as well as a reduction of the shadow economy in the tourism and, in particular, hospitality sectors. At the same time, for the competitiveness of the tourism sector it is important to strengthen the role and visibility of Latvia internationally.
As part of the development of the plan, there were 10 focus groups with the industry in Riga and the regions, as well as a public consultation in the Tourism Council of the Ministry of Economics in October this year. The plan is expected to be forwarded for approval to the Cabinet of Ministers in the first half of 2020.
Work on this Tourism Development Plan is being carried out with support from the Interreg Europe project “Promoting development of tourism in the regions – BRANDtour”. The purpose of the project is to develop and implement in five years policy initiatives to boost the competitiveness of tourism entrepreneurs and to promote the development of tourism flows to the regions of the European Union.
Activities of the BRANDTour project of the Ministry of Economics are aimed at promoting capacity growth and innovation potential of small and medium-sized enterprises, which would help them to participate more successfully in regional, national and international tourism markets, as well as to provide a general assessment to strategic tourism development matters – key priorities, challenges and measures to be taken for the growth of a sustainable Latvian tourism sector.