1.5 million tourists are predicted to be arriving in Riga this year, 2012 according to Riga’s Deputy Mayor Andris Ameriks but what effect will this have on the city?
The Deputy Mayor the News agency LETA on Friday that he expects a increase in tourist from 2011 and made note that last year 70 cruise ships arrived, whilst this year 90 will show up. An increase in tourists arriving by bus is also expected. We can already see a massive winter migration to Riga this year by our big neighbour next door, enjoying their winter holidays here in Riga.
So what are the implications for the quiet city of Riga?
More tourists, ‘great’ you may think but there are some concerns over rapid tourism growth, which in turn can actually bring problems for locals. Sure, economic stimulus is fantastic but can rapid growth lead to price rises, leaving locals priced out of their own city center? The answer is, yes, this can happen. We can see this already in the example of the Old City, where prices for food, drink and other products, way exceed the national average.
Rapid growth in tourism can also lead to higher petty street crimes. In cities such as Barcelona, gangs of thieves have flooded into the city looking for quick easy pickings. Could the same happen here in Riga? Hopefully with more tax being collected from tourists, a new wave of tourist friendly Police will enter our streets.
There are of course plenty of positive sides to this increase in tourists. New infrastructures, better international awareness, economic growth resulting in new jobs, even our company will benefit from more tourists and hopefully the whole tourism industry will be forced to step up a little. Moving on from the typical, drab excursions on offer, companies will need to be creative and competitive to stay ahead of the pack. We may even see a spill over, where the Old City is so packed, that tourists will start to explore further to find ‘The Real Riga’.
In short, Tourism increase in Riga will bring positive change. The influx of foreign capital is needed at a time when exports of goods are low. Riga has the chance to develop into one of the main European attractions and we hope that this growth will happen for the better of the local populus.
All I hope is they make a ban on tour groups larger than 25 people and that following tour guides around with numbers on the end of sticks held aloft is made a crime! Small groups, personal tours, specialised excursions are the way forward!