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Rush of Russians prepare to descend on Riga

By Anatol Steven. 03.12.2010

Grand Palace Hotel, Riga
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The popular Latvian capital could see 20% more tourists during the coming New Year period.

Almost all incoming tours to the Latvian capital organized by travel agencies have been sold out less than month before the Christmas holiday season, according to a report this week in the Russian-language Telegraf newspaper.
Many of Riga’s hotels are already fully booked for the season. The Riga City Tourism Information Office has forecast that the number of tourists visiting Riga could increase by 15-20% compared to last year.
The tourism industry is seeing an unprecedented level of interest in Latvia from foreigners, but right now mostly they are coming from one direction – the east.
Russian tourists have always shown by far the most interest in visiting Riga in winter. They are interested specifically in coming in early January, during the long celebrations surrounding Russian Orthodox Christmas.
Iveta Kravale, director of the travel agency Meeting Tour, said she can’t remember a year when her company’s tours had been sold out as early as 1 December.
She believes that the promotion of the city by the Live Riga organization has been fairly successful and says that trips to Riga are mostly being bought by families who can afford to spend around €1,000 for a three-day trip or slightly longer stay.
The fortunes of hotels in Latvia have been rising steadily this year. According to the Central Statistical Bureau, 532,400 guests stayed at Latvian accommodation facilities during the third quarter of 2010, almost 30% more than the same period last year.
Visits by Russian citizens are contributing heavily to this success. While Latvian residents accounted for 32% of hotel guests in the third quarter and the remainder were foreign guests, the number of foreigners grew by 25.6% year-on-year with the number of tourists from Russia rising at the steepest rate, by 79%.

(photo: Grand Palace Hotel, Riga)




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