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2020.05.18 13:02

Lithuania's tourism sector pins hopes on reopening borders

Erika Alonderytė, BNS2020.05.18 13:02

The opening of Baltic borders will give a boost to Lithuania's hard-pressed tourism industry, but the country should put effort into attracting travelers, the sector's representatives say.

Two months into the coronavirus quarantine, Lithuania has been gradually relaxing restrictions. As of Monday, Baltic residents are allowed to travel freely across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Read more: As Baltics reopen, thousands cross borders daily

Businesses hope that more countries will open their borders to tourists in the near future.

Žydrė Gavelienė, the head of the National Tourism Business Association, says Lithuanians will make use of the Baltic ‘free travel bubble’, welcoming the relaxed rules.

“It's a very positive sign, since Lithuanians were under stricter quarantine restrictions than Latvians and Estonians,” Gavelienė told BNS.

Lithuanians like to travel and use every possibility to go on trips abroad, she adds. “They have always liked the Latvian seaside, and also Tallinn no longer seem so far.”

Read more: Eager to restart tourism, Central Europe takes cue from Baltics

However, the opening of borders alone will not result in surging tourism, according to Gavelienė. Lithuania should do more to compete with the other countries that are starting to welcome foreign travelers.

“Nothing will be that simple. Latvians know about Lithuania and make use of the opportunity [to come]. But we should not forget that there are many countries competing in the tourism market. Greece announced several weeks ago that it would be welcoming tourists as of July 1, and Georgia also recently said it was opening up,” she said.

Evalda Šiškauskienė, the president of the Lithuanian Association of Hotels and Restaurants, says several agencies, including Travel Lithuania and Go Vilnius, are working on a campaign to attract tourists to the country.

It will initially focus on Latvia and Estonia, but will later expand to include Poland, Germany and Israel.

“We are preparing a major campaign to invite Latvians to come to Lithuania. It’s an important market where we used to have an annual growth rate of 11 percent,” Šiškauskienė tells BNS.

Decisions to allow travel from other countries will have to be made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she adds.

Domestic tourism within Lithuania is also recovering. Hoteliers in the Baltic resort town of Palanga, which had temporarily banned accommodation services in April, say they are 80-percent booked on some weekends.

Citizens and residents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are able to travel to other Baltic states freely and without the mandatory 2-week self-isolation as long as they have not been outside the Baltics over the past 14 days.

However, document checks remain in place on the Lithuanian border. There are no documents checks on the Latvian–Estonian border.

Baltic residents returning from foreign countries will still be required to self-isolate for two weeks and be able to do that in their home country.

As of last week, people from Poland are allowed to come to Lithuania for business, work or education.

Read more: AirBaltic resumes Vilnius–Riga flights