Latvia’s tourist operators bring home many impressions from promotional tour through Vitebsk Region
From February 1st, 2012, a simplified regime for mutual trips began for residents living in the border areas of Belarus and Latvia. Almost 5,000 Latvians have already taken advantage of this opportunity, crossing the border to take part in cultural, educational, scientific and sporting events. “It was a necessary and timely step,” asserts Dagnija Lace-Ate, the Head of the Latvian Consulate in Vitebsk. “Tourism is becoming a major stimulus to border movement, with Latvian tourist operators interested in potential not only along the border but across Belarus as a whole. Jointly with Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee’s Department for Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism, we organised a promotional tour for Latvian tourist operators through the Dvina River area. Vitebsk residents have also become acquainted with one of Latvia’s most widely promoted tourist brands — Live Riga — during this promotional campaign.”
The Latvian guests (from over a dozen of the major tourist operators and carriers of the country) visited the large cities of Vitebsk and Polotsk, as well as the 50km border zone covered by the simplified border crossing procedure. Certainly, they were able to see that, besides visiting relatives, there’s much to capture the imagination: Braslav and the Braslav Lakes National Park, alongside resort facilities in Miory and at Rosinka spa in Miory District. Few such facilities are found in Latvia.
Vitebsk residents are ready to offer children from abroad recuperative stays, while guesthouses for parents are currently being constructed in Rosinka. The Latvian guests toured Vitebsk Region’s other district centres and were pleasantly surprised by an organ and chamber choir concert at a local Catholic church in Glubokoe. They admitted readily that they’ll return home with many wonderful impressions.
Grigory Pomerantsev, the Chairman of Riga Tourism Development Bureau’s Board, tells us, “If, after this trip, I was asked to recommend something to Latvian tourists, I’d primarily think of the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve in Vitebsk Region; it has a wonderful museum, with animals in open air cages, which would certainly appeal to families. You can stay in the nearby hotel. Meanwhile, Borovoe and Lesnoe spas, as well as the Belarusian Defence Ministry’s spa, impressed us all with the level of their medical treatments, contemporary equipment and highly qualified staff. Moreover, they are found in very scenic locations.”
In turn, Mr. Pomerantsev presented the famous tourist project ‘Live Riga’, which he hopes will appeal to potential tourists and tourist operators from Vitebsk Region. We are invited to wander the ancient streets of the Latvian capital, take a cruise by yacht, go to the opera or take part in fairytale winter celebrations. The first Christmas fir tree was installed in Dome Square 500 years ago last year.
“Riga positions itself as the ‘capital of the Baltic region’, making the attraction of Belarusian tourists among its top priorities,” asserts Mr. Pomerantsev. “However, we also believe that Latvian and Belarusian tourist operators should study how best to unite tourist inflow via trans-border tours. We could conquer the tourist markets of third countries, allowing Belarus to gain more visitors from Germany or Sweden.”
Latvian professionals have suggested that spas in Vitebsk Region build indoor swimming pools, to attract foreign guests in the off-season period. The Director of Riga Travel Agency, Svetlana Telicane, notes that tours to Logoisk and Silichi are enjoying the greatest popularity in her company, with clients offering good feedback. They only regret the absence of discounts for regular clients and large groups in hotels. “This is world practice, so Belarus should take this into account,” explains Ms. Telicane.
The guests and hosts are delighted by their close friendly co-operation. “Latvians are ranked second after Russians for the number of organised tourist groups visiting Vitebsk Region,” notes Natalia Yeliseyeva, the Deputy Head of Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee’s Department for Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism. “We’re conducting fruitful work, and have signed a co-operative agreement with Daugavpils Tourism Information Centre. We’ve invited the Latvian delegation to celebrate the Day of Belarusian Written Language Day in Glubokoe and a return visit is being planned to Latvia for tourist operators and journalists.”
According to Oleg Matskevich, the Chairman of Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee, this testifies to our good neighbourly relations. It’s no surprise that turnover more than doubled between our countries in 2011 (compared to 2010). We’re now implementing joint business projects to construct a spa in Braslav District and to set up a logistics centre in Verkhnedvisnk District. Meanwhile, a Czech investor is improving infrastructure at Vitebsk Airport, while renewing air traffic with other Belarusian regional centres, as well as with Kaliningrad. In addition, two L-410 passenger aircraft have been purchased and negotiations are underway regarding freight and charter transportations. The last aspect is of special interest to Latvian tourist operators.
“During the New Wave Festival, around 250 private planes arrive at Riga Airport daily. Vitebsk must surely experience similar demand during the Slavonic Bazaar,” supposes Mr. Pomerantsev, who is an expert in the sphere of air transportation. “I believe we can share our experience in developing private aviation, to our mutual profit.”
By Sergey Gomonov
Positive energy trends
[b]Belarus’ new energy security concept, running until 2020, differs drastically from that of five years ago, taking into consideration the latest energy supply situation. The oil and gas ‘wars’ involving Belarus are pushing the Government to turn to local fuels, new routes of delivery and, importantly, new sources of energy, as covered by the 2020 concept. Venezuelan President Hugo Chбvez visited Belarus this October, allowing us to come much closer to solving our energy problems[/b]