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Latvia aims to revive tourist industry

The Live Riga brand has been developed by German advertising agency Embassy, whose Be Berlin campaign in 2008 was widely recognized as a great success. It is hoped that through promotions such as Live Riga, tourism’s contribution to GDP will increase by 15% to 20% a year – twice the average for the EU – with each additional 1 million tourists helping to create 10,000 new jobs. “Tourism is actually the only sector where relatively fast growth is possible,” says Janis Naglis, president of the LVRA. “That is why, in a time of economic crisis, it is precisely tourism and its economic contribution to the city and its residents that can be good news.”

The Live Riga marketing campaign paid immediate dividends in its first three months, with December, January and February all registering a sharp uptick in the number of visitors to Riga from the seven countries targeted in the launch campaign – Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Russia and Sweden. "We see that successful city branding, if done professionally, brings immediate and clear results," says airBaltic’s chief commercial officer, Tero Taskila.

One welcome focus of the flawed property boom was on building new hotels, with the result that Riga now boasts accommodation to suit every taste and pocket, ranging from bargain-basement hostels to glitzy five-star spa complexes.

And while Russian technopop maestro DJ Smash’s club hit rightly proclaims Moscow Never Sleeps, Riga is hardly soporific either and is mercifully free of the type of overbearing face control and service with a snarl attitude that can make nightlife in the Russian capital such a chore. It’s no provincial backwater either, with Riga firmly established on the roster of venues for performances by top music acts as well as international DJs. What’s more, with vacancy rates having soared and rental values plummeted, landlords have been desperate to lease out empty premises, with the result that a new generation of young Latvian entrepreneurs have been finally able to afford to realize their dreams and open a bar, club, restaurant or shop.

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