On 5 February, the long-awaited 28th International Travel Trade Fair, Balttour 2023, concluded at Ķīpsala International Exhibition Centre, which, after a three-year break, attracted great interest from travellers! Visitors were enthusiastic about Latvia’s tourist attractions, routes and active leisure opportunities, and were able to buy bargain trips abroad, as well as enjoy gastronomic delights and exciting activities. The joy of socialising was in the air!
Balttour 2023 brought together 293 companies and their representatives from 33 countries – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Armenia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Georgia, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, Morocco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Finland, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine Hungary, Uzbekistan, Germany and Sweden.
Over the three days, the fair demonstrated solid consumer interest for what the industry has to offer – despite being held in a single hall, it attracted 22,865 visitors, including 4,000 professionals.
“We are very pleased with the success of Balttour 2023 and the return of such an important event for the Latvian tourism industry. Balttour has shown that the exhibition format is in demand for both tourism service providers and tourists. We have achieved our goals with flying colours – we have successfully implemented targeted activities for industry professionals, promoted business networking, and presented information about tourism industry news and offers. We also addressed the importance of safe and responsible travel. The positive feedback encourages us to continue to develop the fair with additional activities and valuable business content. We clearly see opportunities for development, working with those involved in the tourism sector, both private and public. Let’s make Latvia the centre of the Baltic tourism industry!” says Ēriks Lingebērziņš, president of the Association of Latvian Travel Agents and Operators (ALTA).
This year, just like in other years, Balttour hosted an active travel sale. Travel agencies and operators – TEZ TOUR, Novatours, Estravel Latvia, 1Travel, AZA tours, Interlux, Nikos Travel, Alsvets, Atlantic Travel, Join UP!, Ozolciems Tūre, Skyline Travel and others welcomed travellers with good offers.
This year, the TEZ TOUR stand was full of Italian flair as the summer programme was officially launched with new destinations in the country: the world’s elite holiday destination on the beautiful island of Sardinia – Olbia and its nearby resorts, as well as the attractive Rimini resort region on the Adriatic coast for all categories of tourists.
“The Balttour fair, after a long break, was very important for us to work and communicate with our customers and partners in person. To show that we are stable and focused, to show that our top priority is still to offer quality tourism products, which we demonstrated at the fair with new destinations. It was a great pleasure to meet colleagues again at the fair – established tourism companies that continue to provide quality services. We expected the fair and our stand to be well attended, and our expectations were met with great success! Travellers were very much looking forward to this travel fair, and this is evidenced by their great interest in various travel destinations,” says Konstantīns Paļgovs, head of the tour operator TEZ TOUR Latvija, and continues: "Many thanks to the organisers – ALTA and BT 1 – for a professionally organised event. It has been a difficult time for everyone, but the results of this year’s fair are very encouraging. TEZ TOUR team will be delighted to meet our colleagues and tourists at the Balttour fair next year!"
Liāna Pudule-Indāne, sales manager of Novatours Latvija, also shares her successful experience: "Let’s not deny that we were a bit nervous about what it would be like to participate again after a three-year break, because not only has the tourism industry changed, but consumer behaviour has changed too. However, within the first few minutes, we were really happy to have the opportunity to meet both clients and colleagues again at the Balttour fair. The interest was really high and we are grateful to everyone who came to our stand, bought a tour or was just interested in the latest tourism news."
Sardinia is the official travel destination of Balttour 2023
The Sardinian atmosphere was present throughout the fair, as Sardinia was this year’s official Balttour partner and tourist destination. Upon entering the hall, you couldn’t help but notice the Mediterranean beauty stand, where guests were greeted by actual Sardinians and our very own welcoming, passionate and hot-blooded Roberto Meloni. Travellers could find out what Sardinia has to offer and buy a trip to the land of the long-lived at the other stands.
Latvia shows off its latest products and wide range of offers
All regions showed off Latvia’s tourism opportunities. Each of them also provided information on the latest developments. The people of Kurzeme spoke with joy and pride about the newly opened science centre “VIZIUM” in Ventspils, the newly opened retro bicycle museum “Ciskdrill” in Kuldīga, the “Upside Down House” in Smārde and the new feature of the Liepāja Karosta – the newly renovated redan. The Zemgalians presented information about the new glamping “Mazie Mežgaļi”, about the restaurant “Mežs Kungs”, which will open soon, as well as about the Zvirgzde orienteering polygon, which has just been created in Zvirgzde dune. Latgalians, who were represented in particularly large numbers, encouraged a visit to the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre’s 10th anniversary celebration programme, as well as the Aglona Bread Museum, and to enjoy the beautiful scenery, lakes, nature and marshland trails and watchtowers. The municipalities of the Vidzeme coast, Limbaži, Saulkrasti, Ādaži, highlighted their joint work – a map of the Vidzeme coast with cultural and historical sites, natural attractions, handicraft masters, farms, accommodation, national and local routes. The residents of Gulbene invited guests to an excursion to the railway depot, to the educational and interactive centre "Railway and the Steam", as well as to visit the most beautiful manor houses and castles in the region.
“Similarly as in the Netherlands, at Balttour we were also pleased to see that we got more than we expected – the interest was really high, people were longing for the format of the fair and face-to-face communication. For years, it has been argued that the exhibition format is no longer valid, as everything can be found and bought online. But we were able to prove otherwise! There were plenty of ambitious and curious visitors. Visitors who have been to Gulbene and visited a single attraction will find that Gulbene and its surroundings offer so much that you can spend not just one day, but even a whole week there. Only in person can you get such complete, high-quality information, and visitors really appreciate it. Balttour also serves as a meeting place for professionals!” says Raitis Sijāts, chairman of the Vidzeme Tourism Association.
The industry professional also emphasised that visitors are more focused and come to the fair with specific needs: "Gone are the days when visitors pick up maps and brochures without looking. They choose what interests them most. And the claim that only those who don’t know how to use the internet visit the exhibition is also untrue!"
Inbound and outbound tourism business events
Every year, the first day of the fair – both the offer of exhibitors and the programme of events – is dedicated to professionals in the field. This year, two important events of value to industry professionals took place. The first seminar was an inbound tourism matchmaking event, which brought together foreign outbound tourism operators from Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Denmark to learn about Latvia’s tourism offers.
“I appreciate the opportunity for Latvian regions to present their tourism offer at a business event. The representatives of the regions presented themselves not only to foreigners, but also to their colleagues, and that is also important. So many benefits in such a short time!” says R. Sijāts.
The second event was dedicated to Latvian outbound tourism, where you could meet tourism industry representatives from airBaltic’s newest destinations – Gran Canaria, Marrakech, Bilbao, Porto, Montenegro, Serbia, Armenia, Romania and also Tampere.
Expert discussion on safe travel
On 3 February, the ALTA stand also hosted an opinion ring discussion "Responsible Tourism Business – How to Travel Safely" organised by Turība University. Experts discussed how the pandemic has changed tourist behaviour and demand, and what travel-related risks are currently being observed. The discussion was attended by Dean of the Faculty of International Tourism of Turība University and ALTA President Ēriks Lingebērziņš, ALTA Board Member Anta Jokste, Head of the Consular Assistance Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sandra Salmiņa-Šuke and Head of the Latvian Congress Bureau Irēna Riekstiņa.
Tourism Person of the Year 2020–2022
On the first day of the fair, 3 February, immediately after the opening ceremony of Balttour 2023, the most important award for the Latvian tourism industry took place – Tourism Person of the Year 2020–2022. This year, the jury awarded three prizes, expressing gratitude to those representatives of the tourism industry who have made a significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian tourism business, as well as represented the interests of the industry in crisis situations: COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine. The awards were received by Jānis Jenzis, president of the Latvian Restaurant Association, Astrīda Trupovniece, executive Director of ALTA and Vadims Muhins, member of the Latvian Hotel and Restaurant Association and owner of hotel operator Mogotel. Congratulations to the winners!
See you at Balttour 2024!
The next 29th International Travel Trade Fair Balttour 2024 will take place from 2 to 4 February at Ķīpsala International Exhibition Centre.