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FITUR Interview of Argita Daudze, Ambassador of the Republic of LATVIA to the Kingdom of Spain
The interview of Argita Daudze, Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia to the Kingdom of Spain bring us with more information about this green country and its tourism industry.
The 38th FITUR will kick off on January 17 to 21, 2018 in Madrid. The interview of Argita Daudze, Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia to the Kingdom of Spain bring us with more information about this green country and its tourism industry.
From left to right: Her Excellency Ms. Argita Daudze; Chef Samantha Vallejo-Nágera;
Mr. Javier Cerro, Head of Purchases and Restaurants at El Corte Inglés;
Ms. Dace Melbārde, Minister of Culture of Latvia; Ms. Velga Balode, Director of Export Promotion,
Latvian Investment and Development Agency (17/10/2017 Las Nubes Restaurant, El Corte Inglés)
What’s behind the rapid growth of tourism in Latvia?
There are two factors. First, Latvia has a lot of attractions to offer tourists and has top-notch services at economical prices.  Second, the steadfast work of marketing in the tourism industry. Latvia is a very green country, its forests cover more than half the national territory; the Baltic Sea shore with its white sand beaches runs for more than 500 kilometers.  There are hundreds of lakes, rivers and reservoirs that are perhaps lesser known to the Spanish people. In a modern world full of stress, people appreciate the chance to relax in nearly untouched natural surroundings.
The most popular tourist destination is still the Latvian capital, Riga. Founded in 1201, Riga has outstanding medieval and Art Nouveau architecture. Alberta Street is the most famous for its Art Nouveau buildings. I recommend visiting the Art Nouveau Museum, where visitors can enjoy the early-20th century setting as they learn more about this glamorous architectural style. Visitors can enjoy the early- 20th century atmosphere and Riga offers a wide variety of cultural events and outstanding restaurants. Other cities in Latvia such as Jūrmala, Liepāja, Ventspils, and Daugavpils also have a great deal to offer and are just waiting to be discovered.
This year we hope for even more interest because it is Latvia’s centennial. On November 18th  2018 Latvia will turn 100 years old, but we will be celebrating all year long, at home and abroad. In 2018 there will be several major exhibits at the Latvia National Art Museum (Latvijas Nacionalais Makslas Muzej), the National History Museum (Latvijas Nacionalais Vestures muzejs) as well as concerts at the Latvia National Opera (Latvijas Nacionala Opera). Listed as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the Latvian Song and Dance Festival will be held in Riga in early July. On those days, Riga will be brimming with music, traditional costumes, arts and crafts markets and a festive atmosphere.
What sectors of tourism are the most advanced in the country?
Latvia uses its natural resources, history, culture and more to offer tourists a variety of leisure activities, sports tourism, outdoor nature activities, river trips, as well as more traditional sightseeing to places of interest (Rundale Palace, Cēsis, Sigulda, Turaida, Kuldia, and the Basilica in Aglona). I think there’s something for everyone, whether they be outdoor sports lovers or families with kids (Ventspils has been recognized as the most accessible city for families with children in Europe).
There’s been an increase in the number of restaurants offering modern Latvian cooking in recent years. The “White Guide”, also called the Michelin Guide of the Nordic countries, has listed several dozen Latvian restaurants for two years running. Last year, the restaurant Vincents was first and this year ranks as second best restaurant in the Baltic countries.
Confirmation of the new direction gastronomy has taken in Latvia was the designation of Riga Gauja as European Region of Gastronomy 2017 along with the regions of Lombardy in Italy and Aarhus in Denmark.  The year 2017 also brought Latvian gastronomy and products to Spain. In collaboration with El Corte Inglés, the Embassy of Latvia and the LIAA (the Latvian Investment and Development Agency) organized the “Tastes of Latvia” gastronomy days at all the El Corte Inglés restaurants in Spain. That collaboration has proven very important in promoting Latvia and its products. The inaugural event for “Tastes of Latvia” was very special: the famous chef from Masterchef, Samantha Vallejo-Nágera, cooked with Latvian chef Lauris Aleksejevs. It was a very thrilling event.
What steps is your country taking to ensure the sustainability of tourism and the environment? 
As I mentioned before, the environment plays a major role in the tourism industry in Latvia. For decades, rural tourism has been one of the most popular ways of traveling in Latvia, not only for tourists but for the Latvians themselves. The rural tourism association has created a specific system, the “green certificate,” to acknowledge the best accommodations, rural farms and companies that showcase the rural side of Latvia. We might say that Latvia has chosen eco-tourism and rural tourism as priorities in the tourism sector. Work on the sustainability of tourism also takes place at the governmental level, both nationally and regionally.
Culture and traditions are key pieces to their offering. How will they be displayed at your stand at FITUR?
The stand will be staffed by representatives from all the historical and cultural regions of Latvia. Experts will bring materials for tourism, small souvenirs from Latvia and Latvian products. There will also be a wide variety of materials/invitations to come discover Latvia in 2018 when we celebrate our Centennial.  The design of the stand is very modern, in the minimalist style, and I think it will stand out from others. The poster at the entrance to Room 4 will also stand out with the slogan “Magnetic Latvia”.  What we mean by that slogan is that Latvia attracts effortlessly by firmly.
How do you think your participation at the fair can help push your activity and business?
Participating with a national stand at the FITUR International Tourism Fair in Madrid is important for several reasons. Very little tourism has been promoted in Spain so far. This will be a chance for the participants to present Latvia and at the same time to learn about the visitors, the Spanish tourists’ interests and discover how much they know about tourism in the Baltic countries. An interesting example of how we plan on attracting more tourists from Spain is by promoting Latvia as a tourist destination for summer vacation. As we all know, summers in Spain are usually very hot, but in Latvia the temperatures are much more pleasant (there are options for spending the summer on the Baltic Sea or beside a river or lake).  I think the climate may be a positive factor for increasing tourism from Spain.
Spain is a country with many traditions and a great cultural heritage. Latvia is, as well, and I think Spanish people know how to appreciate it. The distance between Latvia and Spain is relative; there are comfortable connecting flights and even non-stop flights between Madrid and Riga (seasonally) that will take you there in 3 hours.
Participation in FITUR will be an important leaning experience that will help continue with the work in the tourism industry in Spain. Representatives from different regions of Latvia will take part in the exhibit and get the chance to make contact with their Spanish counterparts. A fruitful job is expected.  Tourism is one of the sectors of the economy that creates the Gross National Product.  Spain knows this well, which is why they pay more attention to this sector. Clearly, free time is not just for “recharging the batteries” but also for creating new ideas and interest in the place visited. If Spanish people like to visit Latvia, they like our healthy food and our cultural offering, then we may safely say that business people will also take more interest in Latvia. But first, you have to come, see, feel and taste. Welcome!

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