During the months of July and August, the Lithuanian tourism development agency Lithuania Travel surveyed more than 700 tourists from Estonia and Latvia.
Estonian and Latvian tourists interviewed in Lithuania this summer longed for change more than ever before. After examining priorities which affect the decision to travel, it was noted that compared to 2019, the desire to escape familiar environments has grown. Furthermore, the tendency to avoid large gatherings declined. It is likely that this was a result of the extended lockdown.
Despite a desire for changes in their environment, tourists remained cautious. According to the study, travellers from both Latvia and Estonia dedicated a significant amount of attention to COVID-19 safety, but for those on brief holidays to Lithuania this was less important. Business travellers and those on holidays beyond four days emphasised this more, along with older travellers and families with children.
“The Baltic States’ comparable epidemiological situations were a major advantage this summer. Due to the Baltic Travel Bubble that emerged, even tourists that placed great focus on safety eagerly visited Lithuania. The study revealed that business tourists were more cautious than leasure travellers. Only 13 per cent of all tourists visited Lithuania for business purposes. For comparison, in 2019 business tourists comprised 43 per cent of all tourist flow from the Baltic States. This suggests that business habits are changing and the recovery in travel will be slower than for leasure tourism,” Keliauk Lietuvoje director Dalius Morkvėnas says.
Planning trips independently
Both Estonian and Latvian citizens typically chose brief trips this season and did not dedicate much time to travel planning. 18 per cent of respondents visited Lithuania for a weekend, while 44 per cent for two to three days. Since Lithuania is a close and familiar location, most (52 per cent) of those arriving planned the trip in under a week.
These countries’ tourists were inclined to travel independently. Only 16 per cent of respondents arrived in Lithuania with an individual or group tour, and the rest did so on their own. The majority (66 per cent) of respondents visited Lithuania by car. However, Estonians were more likely to choose air transport, while Latvians chose to travel by bus.
Interested in gastronomic experiences and the capital
The neighbouring countries’ citizens were mostly drawn to Lithuania this summer by the desire to get acquainted with local culture, try national dishes and beverages, as well as to explore Lithuania’s nature. It was observed that since last year, there had been some growth in interest regarding Lithuanian cuisine.
International guests also enthusiastically visited local restaurants (81 per cent) and tried local dishes (62 per cent). The tourists’ attention was also drawn by the country’s capital city (60 per cent), historical locations (57 per cent), and museums and galleries (54 per cent). Older guests (above the age of 55) were more drawn to smaller towns and villages.
“Both our and international tourism organisation forecasts proved true – this season, spontaneous individual trips to nearby countries were the most popular ones. Based on this, we formed a product and marketing strategy offering tourists individual routes in cities and regions, products for active leisure in nature, and focusing a great deal on gastronomical tourism. It is clear that these decisions proved justified,” the head of Lithuania Travel notes.
Positive experiences are decisive
However, the experiences in the restaurants visited tasting local dishes, visiting local museums and galleries did not satisfy everyone’s expectations. Meanwhile, visiting the capital and historical locations did not disappoint tourists. The combined impression of Lithuania held by Estonian and Latvian travellers remained positive and even improved a little. Eight out of ten travellers said they would like to return, and would recommend others visit the country.
“Good experiences are crucial because the Baltic States’ citizens particularly rely on the advice of family, friends and colleagues when planning their travels. Based on our data, more than half of our respondents indicate recommendations from their close ones as their main source of information when planning their trips. Social media also has a significant influence on travel planning, which is a key message to the tourism business – in order to retain a sizeable tourism flow from neighbouring countries, it is essential to form a positive impression for current tourists and to have active and representative social media profiles,” D. Morkvėnas states.
Comparing the trends of this season to 2019, the significance of friends’ recommendations and the aim to see things spotted on social media increased. That said, Latvian tourists were more mindful of their relatives’ opinions and information on social media, with Estonian citizens more frequently using online forums (Lithuania.travel, TripAdvisor, etc.).
The survey was performed across Lithuania and included 785 tourists from Estonia and Latvia. While the largest number of guests were interviewed on the streets of Vilnius, more than half were surveyed in other Lithuanian cities and tourist centres. The survey was performed by UAB Eurotela, and the data was analysed by UAB PJ LT.