The Travel Trade Fair “Balttour 2017” has come to a successful conclusion!

On 5 February, the Travel Trade Fair “Balttour 2017” came to an end in Ķīpsala, showing that people’s desire to travel is increasing once again and that travellers have become more knowledgeable, determined and demanding. The visitors acquired information and ideas for their leisure, and, according to tour operators and agencies, they also used the travel sale actively!

While at “Balttour 2017”, visitors had the opportunity to get to know the diverse tourism offer of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East over a span of three days – it was possible to learn about destinations near and far, discover unique tourism objects and new routes, feel the hospitality of Latvian regions, enjoy various performances, taste various delicious foods and drinks, as well as shop at the largest travel sale of the year!

The two thematic halls gathered 850 tourism companies and their representatives from Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia, Croatia, Ukraine, Tobago, Nepal, Switzerland, Thailand, Taiwan – altogether from 38 countries of the world. There were 28 thousand people who came searching for inspiration to travel around Latvia and the world, 5.5 thousand of which were professionals of the industry.

“This year, the desire of Latvian residents to travel has increased noticeably already at the beginning of the year. The trips offered by tour operators and agencies aroused a lot of interest among the visitors of “Balttour 2017” and marked a positive trend for the further development of the tourism industry. The joy for travelling of our people is never-fading and it shows that this year will be successful for providers of tourism services and the industry altogether,” Inga Kavaca, President of the Association of Latvian Travel Agents and Operators, elaborates.

The largest travel sale of the year
Tour operators and agencies underline that the visitors of the fair had a lot of outstanding offers to choose from once again, furthermore, there was great interest showed in them and the number of reservations at the end of the fair is very pleasing.

“We once made a promise that the most favourable “Tez Tour” trips would be available at “Balttour”, and we have been trying to keep that promise ever since. Having that in mind, there were tourists who even booked several destinations at once this year,” Konstantīns Paļgovs, Chairman of the Board at “Tez Tour”, explains. Leonīds Močeņovs, Director of tour operator “Novatours”, also indicates that he is pleased with the results achieved at the fair and that the set objectives have been achieved.

Uldis Alksnis, Chairman of the Board at “Jēkaba ceļojumi”, reveals that the most popular destinations among groups were Iceland, Morocco, Belarus, Lake Baikal and the Caucasus Mountains. There was also great interest in Portugal, whereas Crete was the most popular among charter trips. Irina Tereško, Member of the Board at “Ozolciems tūre”, also acknowledges that the start of the new tourism season at the fair was successful: “We were pleased that people came with a specific goal to purchase a trip, and they knew what they wanted. This year, the greatest interest was expressed in Montenegro, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Great Britain. Besides, an inflow of clients can be also felt after the fair.”

Out of the trips offered by “Tez Tour”, the most popular ones were those for families with children. “The questions asked most often were about travel destinations for families, and people wanted to know about places with attractions for children available, for example, amusement parks and water parks. The fair confirmed that there are still no alternatives to the resorts of the Antalya region in Turkey – they offer reasonable prices, as well as a broad range of options to choose from. There was also a lot of interest in the resorts of Rimini and its surroundings, however, Turkish hotels overtook all of the other destinations according to the number of reservations,” Konstantīns Paļgovs adds.

New possibilities for travelling the world
Such exotic countries as Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and the Caribbean island of Tobago were represented at the fair for the first time. Besides, visitors could no only acquire information on the tourism offer of the island, but also enjoy concerts by the Tobago musician Frederick Lincoln.

“We were delighted by the fact that Latvian residents actually know where the island of Tobago is located and what kind of historical links Latvia has with it. It was important for the Tourism Department of Tobago to be in Riga, in order to meet tourism professionals and those wishing to travel. A fair is the best platform for assessing the potential of Latvia and deciding what type of marketing activities should be carried out in order to achieve the set objectives,” Angelika Wegner, representative of “Tobago Tourism”, underlines.

Diverse leisure possibilities in the regions of Latvia
Every traveller, even the most demanding ones, could find something to suit their needs in the hall “Travel around Latvia!” – from various cycling and hiking routes, recreation possibilities, attractions and historically significant places to museums, accommodation establishments and offers of gastronomic tourism. The participants of the fair confirm that people are now coming to the fair with specific wishes. “Visitors are now looking for specific things – they ask about hiking, cycling and boating routes, as well as leisure possibilities for families with children,” Gita Memmēna, Head of the Saulkrasti Tourism Information Centre, reveals and she underlines, “although all of our offers and news are published on the Internet, people still prefer personal contact more.”

There was a wide variety of offers for families with children at “Balttour 2017”, and visitors showed great interest in them. The stand of Lielvārde Municipality provided information on the new thematic adventure park “Avārijas brigāde”, which will open in the spring, the stand of Sigulda presented novelties of the season – the attraction “Zērglis” and the first football golf park in the Baltics, Madona Municipality offered information on the new children’s quadracycle park “Strautnieki”, whereas the Olympic Centre “Ventspils” introduced the visitors with several recreational objects.

“In order to advertise our offer to families with children, this year, instead of tastings we chose to give the visitors an opportunity to play the new “Zosu spēle” (Geese game) of the Rundāle Palace and the medieval games of the Bauska Castle,” Inese Turkupole-Zilpure, Head of the Bauska Tourism Information Centre, reveals and adds that visitors were also interested in gourmet tours.

Growing interest in culture tourism in Latvia
Participants of “Balttour 2017” forecast that culture tourism will experience rapid growth in Latvia this year. “This year, existing and potential guests of Liepāja and its surroundings were especially interested in the schedule of cultural, sports and open-air events. They welcomed the possibility of receiving a schedule of events for the whole year, as that will allow them to plan their holidays more easily,” Sintija Pusaudze, Marketing Specialist of the Liepāja Region Tourism Information Centre, explains and adds, “We observed that guests usually plan their trips around visits to various large events. We helped visitors plan their holidays during all three days of the fair, combining the events chosen by them with recreation on land, in the water and in the air, as well as with accommodation and catering.”

“Balttour” visitors are knowledgeable travellers!
In honour of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs taking part in “Balttour” for the 10th time, the consular service presented a new knowledge quiz “Travel Safely” at the fair, helping travellers get ready for their trips abroad more responsibly and providing information on how to act in emergency situations. During the fair, almost 500 people tested their knowledge and competed for various prizes, besides, 83 % of them got very good results.

The Consular Department also introduced travellers with 10 steps for safe travelling and provided the possibility to consult with representatives of the State Border Guard, Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, State Revenue Service and Latvian Insurers Association. Those interested received answers to questions regarding border crossing, transportation of goods in personal luggage, the use of personal identification documents, execution of suitable travel insurance policies, as well as regarding the Consular Register, the mobile application “Travel Safely” and the assistance of the consular service in emergency situations in countries, where there are no Latvian missions.

Winners of “Person of the Year in Tourism 2016” revealed during the fair
The most outstanding tourism professionals of the Latvian tourism industry – winners of “Person of the Year in Tourism 2016” – were congratulated during “Balttour 2017”. The absolute title of “Person of the Year in Tourism 2016” was received by Mārtiņš Rītiņš, Director and Chef at restaurant “Vincents”.

Being the best in their fields, awards were also handed out to seven other distinguished professionals – Ilze Riņķe, Manager of “Hotel Neiburgs”, Anta Jokste, Head of the travel agency “Estravel Latvia”, Tatjana Kozačuka, Head of the Krāslava Tourism Information Centre, Magda Riekstiņa, Journalist at the newspaper “Diena”, Mārtiņš Sirmais, Head of the three chef restaurant “Tam labam būs augt” and “Galerija Istaba”, Raitis Sijāts, Head of the Vidzeme Tourism Association, as well as Aira Andriksone, Executive Director at the Association of Latvian Castles, Palaces and Manors.

A splendid three day programme of events
Talents from all regions of Latvia performed on stage during all three days of the fair. The programme was dazzling and diverse! Joy was brought to the visitors of the fair and happiness was spread all around by various artists – Legzdiņi sisters from Dobele, Irish dance studio “Ceili Rue”, line dancing group “Latte” from the Ķekava Municipality, dancers of folk dances, kokle players, folklore groups, dancers of Eastern dances and many others. The programme was enriched by engaging demonstrations of representatives of the Estonian science centre “AHHAA”, whereas musician Frederick Lincoln from Tobago surprised everyone with his steel-pan playing skills.

See photos from “Balttour 2017” here. Get more information at www.balttour.lv and facebook.com/balttour.

See you at “Balttour 2018”!
The 25th International Travel Trade Fair “Balttour 2018” will take place from 2 to 4 February at the International Exhibition Centre Ķīpsala.

Business forum for tourism professionals
Two days before the fair, on 1 February, conference centre “Citadele” hosted the “Balttour 2017” business forum, which was attended by more than 120 tourism industry professionals from all over Latvia. The event was opened by Irēna Riekstiņa, Secretary General of the Association of Latvian Travel Agents and Operators (ALTA), and Andris Ozols, Director of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA).

At the beginning of the forum, professionals of the industry were provided information regarding specifics of the Chinese market and were given nuances for attracting Chinese tourists. That was followed by three work sessions. The first one being “Digital revolution in the tourism industry – the astonishing possibilities of modern technologies for working with clients. Virtual and augmented reality and other innovations”, which was hosted by Mikus Opelts, virtual reality expert and founder of “SkatSkat.lv” and “Giraffe360”. Followed by “Cooperation between tour operators, mediators and providers of tourism services/products in the creation of customer value proposition”, which was hosted by Dr. Ēriks Lingebērziņš, Executive Director and Member of the Board at SIA “Baltic Vision Riga” and Associate Professor at the Faculty of International Tourism of the “Turība” University. And finally, “New destination opportunities of the “airBaltic” airline”, which were presented by Sanda Teihmane, “airBaltic” Sales Manager in the Baltics. Moreover, the final session was attended by special guests – Svetlana Karlova, President of the Odessa Tourism Association, Sergei Stepanov, Commercial Director of the Odessa International Airport, and Pedro Moralless, representative of “airBaltic” in Spain (“Tal Aviation”).

The panel discussions of the forum were also participated by other specialists of the field: David Beruchashvili, a guide in Paris and the surrounding area, Vladislavs Korjagins, Director of “Baltic Travel Group”, Aivars Aksenoks, Manager of the Riga Motor Museum, Bauska Motor Museum and Biķernieki Complex Sports Base, Rolands Gradkovskis, Director of “TAKA” Daugavpils municipal agency, George G. Ganchev, Director of “Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga”, Anta Jokste, Director of “Estravel Latvia”, Leonīds Močeņovs, Director of “Novatours”, Guntars Ķirsis, Director of Dzintari Concert Hall, Daira Jātniece, Owner of “Vaidelotes” farm, etc.

The Trade Fair “Balttour” and the forum are organised by the Association of Latvian Travel Agents and Operators in cooperation with the International Exhibition Company BT 1.