A joint meeting entitled Building a Baltic Tourism Region - Investment for Tomorrow was held by the Economics, Energy and Innovation Committee, the Education, Science and Culture Committee, and the Welfare Committee of the Baltic Assembly in Jurbarkas, Lithuania. Keynote speakers of the meeting focused on the long-term Baltic tourism strategy, the press service of the Lithuanian parliament said.
© K. Cemnolonskio nuotr.

Lidija Bajarūnienė, representative of the Ministry of Economy of Lithuania, welcomed the fact that Lithuania was the only country of the three Baltic States to be a member of the UN World Tourism Organisation. She gave a presentation of the Lithuanian Tourism Development Programme for 2014-2020, establishing the key goals, objectives and priorities of tourism development.

Bajarūnienė noted that the Programme had been drafted with a view to ensuring that tourism, as a sector of economy, contributes to increasing the income of the population, developing new business niches, attracting private investment, increasing the GDP of the country, and addressing matters related to economic and social development of the regions. The strategic goal of the Programme is to enhance competitiveness of the Lithuanian tourism sector. Other objectives include improved tourism infrastructure and quality of tourism services, enhanced visibility and image of Lithuania as a tourist destination, and contained seasonality of tourism services.

The speaker also emphasised that cooperation with neighbouring countries in implementing joint international marketing projects is among the objectives of the Programme. It also underlines the importance of cooperation with the Baltic Sea countries, in particular Latvia and Estonia, in order to present Lithuania more efficiently worldwide as a Baltic tourism region.

The speaker also touched upon the key challenges facing the Lithuanian tourism sector. She highlighted the problems related to accessibility and visibility of the country, seasonal nature of services, entrepreneurship, infrastructure, cooperation and digitalisation. The succeeding speakers from other countries identified similar problems, too.

Jurgita Kazlauskienė, head of Lithuania's State Department of Tourism , said that currently the Baltic States cooperated through joint activities by co-organising the annual international business forum Baltic Connecting (to be held in Vilnius in autumn 2015) aimed at introducing the potential of the Baltic tourism sector to international tourism representatives; by arranging familiarisation trips for tour operators and journalists from distant markets (Japan, China, the USA); by co-organising and participating in international tourism exhibitions and other events.

When addressing the issue of tourism in Estonia, Mihhail Korb, deputy chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee of Estonia's Riigikogu, took note of the current geopolitical situation and the aggressive foreign policy of Russia that resulted, like in Lithuania, in manifestly reduced numbers of tourists from Russia. The politician was convinced that the situation was the outcome of not only the deteriorating geopolitical situation but also of the worsening financial situation.

The total contribution of travel and tourism to Lithuania's national economy exceeded 4 percent of GDP in 2011 and is forecast to rise by 4.6 percent each year until 2022. Adventure tourism, cultural tourism, business tourism, health and medical tourism, and cruising are among the key sub-sectors of tourism. Tourists mainly arrive to Lithuania from bordering countries, namely Poland, Russia, Latvia, and Belarus, as well as from Germany, the UK, Finland, and Italy.

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