EU state’s hotel industry boss counts cost of anti-Russia sanctions

Lazy eyes listen


Latvia has lost a third of its tourists since severing connections with Russia over the Ukraine conflict, and the loss is unlikely to be recovered, according to Andris Kalnins, head of the Latvian Association of Hotels and Restaurants.

Due to its near proximity to Russia and historical ties as a former member of the Soviet Union, the Baltic nation has long been a favourite destination for Russian travellers.

Latvia restricted Russian travel in September 2022, with Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics tweeting, “You’re not welcome here – you need to end the war against Ukraine and be gone from that beautiful country!”

The ban – which covers most Russian visitors, except for EU residence permit holders and some other categories – has dealt a major blow to Latvia’s tourism industry. Russians previously accounted for a third of all visitors to the country.

“It is impossible to cover all the Slavic market that we have lost. We used to have about 30% of tourists coming from Russia,” Kalnins said.

Last week, following the Wagner Group mutiny in Russia, Latvia further tightened its border controls, and stopped issuing all types of visas to Russian citizens.

The country’s tourism industry players have acknowledged that “Russia was an important market.”

Vladislav Koryagin, CEO of the Baltic Travel Group, admitted that “of course, we miss it,” adding that “from an economic perspective, this decision may not have helped local businesses.”