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By Editor . 29.09.2008

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  RigaNOW! met with three specialists in the field – the Executive Director of Inspiration Riga Convention Bureau, Tamāra Kļaviņa; the President of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants in Latvia, Juris Zudovs; and Artūrs Stikuts, the Director of Sales and Marketing for Reval Hotels in Latvia – to find out more about the evolution and future of conference tourism.


Over the last few years, hotel industry insiders have been working to solve the problem of seasonality. The solution has involved promoting Latvia as an ideal conference location.


In response to an ever-increasing number of tourists visiting the country, hotel numbers have risen rapidly. Yet conference facilities have progressed more slowly, and most of these are small compared to the world scale. The largest venues include Riga Congress Hall, which doesn’t have accommodation. Of the hotels, there’s Reval Hotel Latvija, which can cater for 3,000 delegates at a time including its largest space for 1,000. Radisson SAS Daugava hotel is the next largest, followed by Maritim Park hotel. Citing international statistical information, Klaviņa asserts that Latvia is definitely the leader in the Baltics in terms of attracting conference delegates. But when considering the wider region, Riga still has some way to go compared to Copenhagen, although it is catching up to Helsinki.

 In terms of numbers, the future looks brighter. Riga International Airport aims to be able to turnover 20 million passengers annually after expansion. In response to this, Kļaviņa told us that the business park on the airport territory will include a conference and exhibition center due to open in 2013, which will have halls catering for up to 5,000 delegates at a time.

 The NATO Summit in 2006 was the largest event hosted by Riga so far, with 4,000 delegates.

At the time there was a lot of speculation whether such a high profile event could be hosted by a small, former Soviet country successfully, however doubters were proved wrong. Since then, the situation has even improved with the Reval Hotel Latvija expansion. However, Zudovs mentions that opening a larger conference hotel in the near future would be too great an investment risk. So it seems that for now and the near future, Riga can offer itself as an adequate small to medium-sized event venue.

 When asked what makes Riga uniquely attractive as a conference venue, Kļaviņa says that a developed infrastructure is what draws business tourists. Riga is also compact, which makes it easy for delegates to access the main conference venue, or cultural and historical attractions which the city is famous for. These are also good for incentive reward trips. The city’s close proximity to the airport is another plus, as is the constantly growing number of direct flights being added to the already plentiful connections to Riga.

 Latvia has a proven record of being able to host high level international events successfully, which is a huge plus compared to what neighboring states can boast, says Zudovs. In addition, Latvia is relatively safe, without threats from terrorists or extremists. Furthermore, Stikuts points out that the nation has a convenient geographic location between east and west, there’s a lot for visitors to see and do close to the capital, and the value for money is high in terms of hosting events in Latvia. Stikuts adds that catering to delegates is roughly 40 percent cheaper than in Scandinavian countries, but when considering central Europe, prices are similar.

 A final point to mention is technology. When asked how Riga compares to other capitals such as the current conference venue leader Vienna, Kļaviņa states, “After NATO everything has improved. Video projectors, also translation systems have advanced.” Zudovs mentions that the multi-functional hall in Reval Hotel Latvija can transform from a space seating 500 to an empty room in just a few minutes, translation cabins comply with European Union standards, plus video screening facilities and lighting are state-of-the-art. He even ventures that because technology has been developed so recently, it surpasses the modernity of equipment in Vienna.

 Overall, it seems that while there is still room for growth, Riga is taking positive steps towards developing itself as a conference tourism destination.

If this trend continues together with high service levels, competitive pricing and efforts to attract new markets, then the initial problem of seasonality will become a thing of the past.

hotelier 29.01.2009 16:23

I liked this article - however most of things written is really crap. Working personnaly in hotel business in baltics for
quite some I must admit that Latvian conference promoting agency lacks everything from idea to money. How much advertising
have you ever seen about Riga being a conference city ? Iin comparison even to Tallinn, Riga's Inspiration board is a joke.
This is all said, Latvia and Riga SHOULD !!! become Nordic conference center, due to it geogrphical, cultural, national



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