Johanna came back from her trip to Latvia, very impressed by the country itself and all that is going on there in terms of MICE development. During her visit she met with Lelde Benke who is in charge of International media and marketing for the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA). Lelde’s mission within LIAA is a visionary one, which is why Johanna didn’t want to miss the opportunity to interview her.

1. Lelde, you are liasing between the partners of the MICE industry on behalf of Latvia Investment and Development Agency. How long have you done this and what have been the greatest steps in developing Latvia as an intl. MICE destination during this time?

I became involved in supporting the work of MEET RĪGA in the summer of 2015. Together, we have taken part in trade events like Convene in Vilnius and The Meetings Show in London, as well as published editorial pieces in a variety of specialist publications. Once a year, we arrange a FAM trip for international MICE industry specialists. A joint achievement for 2017 is bringing the MCE Central & Eastern Europe Forum to Riga. Of course, we also work with other industry players. For example, my office, the Tourism Department of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) is in charge of building stands at IBTM World and ITB Berlin, and selecting participants for the national stands.

A recent development is the founding of the Latvia Convention Bureau – an initiative of the private sector and key professional associations. For 2017, LIAA is planning to partially fund the proposed marketing activities of the bureau. The greatest step is the growing amount of collaboration among all involved parties. After all, we share the same goal which is to attract more events to Latvia.

2. During my visit last week, I was particularly impressed by the quality of health-related offers in the SPA centres of Jurmala and how the health aspect can be related to incentive or conference programs. Is health a major selling point for Latvia?

The National Guidelines for Tourism Development 2014-2020 define health and wellness tourism as a key type of tourism to be focused on. As such, the Tourism Department of LIAA does allocate marketing budget to the promotion of health and wellness tourism in markets including Sweden, Russia and Germany. Activities have included press and blog trips with a clear focus on introducing participants to spa facilities in Latvia, from day spas in Riga, to the large spa hotels in Jurmala, to independent rural properties in restored manor houses and farmsteads. Treatments unique to the region include amber massages and local berry scrubs. Some treatments also make use of the health benefits of beer.

Health and wellness tourism is useful in combatting a key challenge for the travel industry in Latvia – seasonality. Typically, Latvia sees a major influx in the number of tourists in spring and summer months but winter is quieter. So, together with MICE, health and wellness tourism is used to attract tourists to Latvia in low season.
Also, Latvia has its own Health Tourism Cluster which gathers industry experts and focuses heavily on developing medical tourism.

3. Latvia and the surrounding Baltic states: do you co-operate in marketing the area and to what extent?

The joint Baltic tourism committee is made up of representatives from the national tourist boards in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. It meets three times a year to align activities. Cooperation is mainly focused on B2B communication channels, the leisure travel sector and long-haul markets – Japan, China, Korea and USA. For example, a Baltic tourism roadshow takes place every year in Japan.

A key event is Baltic Connecting which takes place every year in Riga, Tallinn or Vilnius on a rotational basis. The tourism forum is aimed at developing new business relationships between Baltic suppliers and international buyers. Until 2015, the focus was on European markets, however, since 2016 the focus of Baltic Connecting is long haul markets.

4. What do you personally like most about your country?

We are a tiny country full of surprises! Within one hour’s drive from Riga you can find yourself at the beach, picking mushrooms alone in a forest, shooting a bow and arrow at a medieval castle, being pampered in a rural bathhouse or flying in a vertical wind tunnel. It’s very easy to travel from one place to another so you can fit a lot into one visit.

Thank you for the interview Lelde! 


Are you attending ibtm?

Then please visit LIAA’s booth – the team is exhibiting at stand D10. Please drop by and talk to Lelde and her colleagues about your future MICE activities.

Please also take part in our ibtm #simplythebest campaign. More information also on our #simplythebest ibtm campaign website where you can find all participating exhibitors.

Latvia is for sure among #simplythebest exhibitors! See what Lelde Benke (Tourism Department, Investment and development Agency of Latvia) has to say:

Want to learn more about the Baltic country? Here you can find exciting articles.

Your contact at LIAA:
Lelde Benke
International media and marketing
Tourism Department
Investment and development Agency of Latvia
Mob: +371 26869728

Your contact at tmf:
Ulrike Kiesel
Project Manager Content & PR
+49 931 9002 114