Saeima Budget Commission held a meeting October 7 to discuss the future of tourism industry in Latvia, especially hotels and tourism operators, Latvian Radio reported.
Board member of the Association of Latvian Travel Agents and Operators, Ēriks Lingebērziņš, said that the sector had experienced a 60% drop in volume. At the beginning of the year – until March – the industry worked as usual, while in summer living was stimulated by the local tourism bloodstream and the “Baltic bubble”, i.e., possibility of travelling freely within the borders of the Baltic States. These two factors helped the industry stay afloat, said Lingebērziņš.
However, the situation in the future could be critical in two segments of the tourism business. One of them is Rīga hotels, which are fighting for survival when the flow of foreign tourists stops. Tourism operators are the other most likely group to receive the blow.
Lingebērziņš said the industry’s estimates show that there are 5,000-8,000 tourism workers in the risk group that could potentially join the ranks of the unemployed.
Until now the sector has failed to cooperate with the Ministry of Finance. In turn, cooperation with the Ministry of Economy (EM) has gone smoothly. Lingebērziņš said the industry asked EM to re-allocate state grants for wage subsidies. Previously €19 million were earmarked, of which €14 million has been spent so far.
“The next thing we ask to focus on is to do everything we can to preserve infrastructure. Hotels, while empty, do not have the means to pay the estate tax. It is very important for hotels that it is efficient to easily connect and disconnect electricity, to turn off utilities without penalty,” said Lingebērziņš.