At the beginning of the year, we are not only determined to implement the new ideas, but to also look back on what we have done so far to understand the big picture and be able to increase tourism in the region both locally and internationally. Valmiera Municipality Tourism Board has compiled the most important information of the 2021 municipality tourism industry, behind which are not only numbers, but also people and their stories.
This year has been especially unusual - we are still living in the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and their consequences, and as of July 1st, by merging 8 municipalities, we have created a strong and growth-oriented Valmiera municipality, expanding the tourism offer as well. We are proud of such pearls of tourism as lake Burtnieks, Sietiņiezis, Sedas bog, Skaņaiskalns and Zilaiskalns, the rivers Gauja and Salaca, manors and other tourist attractions.
Although the Valmiera Tourism Information Center (hereinafter TIC) was closed to visitors for almost six months last year due to restrictions in the country and operated with significant restrictions on the number of people for the rest of the year, we served 3719 guests in person, inspired via messages 802 travelers and called 781 for consultations. Due to COVID-19 and the digital age, this has resulted in a ~ 46% reduction in the number of visitors. The global situation has clearly marked a tendency for domestic tourism to increase, which is also confirmed by the Valmiera TIC statistics: 94% of information requests have been received from Latvian residents, while 6% from abroad. The number of guided group tours has also decreased by 12.5%. Despite the fact that the statistics of visitors to Valmiera TIC and also to Rūjiena and Mazsalaca TICs in the region have decreased, due to active participation in the digital environment, we have observed a significant increase in followers and interested people, which confirms our conviction – there is an increase not only to obtain information remotely and digitally, avoiding direct contact, but also the interest of travelers about Valmiera and the region is growing every year!
The conviction that travel and emotions are one of the necessities of a full life were felt in the summer months - in July, August and September, when the outbreak of the virus took a moment, allowing travelers to relax a bit, but the industry to work hard in the summer. We invited travelers to get to know the new Valmiera municipality with the annual tourism campaign. A large increase in the number of requests for information was also observed in December. This is due to the souvenir offer of the Tourism Board, which has become especially in demand not only for the needs of representation, but also as a personalized gift. Travelers' interest in nature and leisure activities, including cycling or walking routes, continues to grow.
It is only natural that the number of foreign visitors has continued to decline. Every year, travelers from Estonia are in the forefront of all foreign visitors, accounting for 34.2% of all countries in 2021. The other TOP3 countries are different than in 2020. If in the past Estonians were followed by travelers from Russia and Lithuania, then in 2021, travelers from Lithuania (10.88% of all foreign guests) and Germany (14.51%) were the next most frequent guests at the Valmiera Tourist Information Center.
We have made additions to the statistics of tourist accommodation, compiling statistics not only for Valmiera, but also for tourist accommodation in Valmiera municipality for the first year. In 2021, 22,457 guests visited them. 67% of them have stayed in Valmiera, which is 2% less than in 2020. In 2021, the average length of stay in tourist accommodation in Valmiera region was 1.97 days, which, compared to the data on tourist accommodation in Valmiera collected in previous years, continues to decrease. Comparing only the data of Valmiera tourist accommodation, there is a positive trend - in April, May, June and December 2021, the average number of overnight stays in Valmiera per month was 569 more than in 2020. The largest decrease in guests was in February (-32%). In the context of Valmiera municipality tourist accommodation, the largest number of guests in tourist accommodation was in July (22.3% of the total number of guests) and August (18.9%), but the lowest in February.
Latvian residents used the accommodation services of guests in Valmiera municipality the most (19,371). Looking only at the occupancy of tourist accommodation in the city of Valmiera, Latvian residents have spent the most nights here, as well as, compared to 2020, it has been 9.65% more. The largest share of overnight stays is made up of guests from Estonia (28%), Lithuania (12.2%) and Finland (8.8%). Comparing the data of 2020 and 2021 only for the tourist accommodation in Valmiera, the share of overnight stays in Estonia has significantly decreased (-69%). The share of overnight stays in Russia (-65%), Finland (-42.6%) and Lithuania (-34%) has also decreased. In 2021, the number of overnight stays from countries such as Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine and Sweden increased slightly. It was also recorded for the first time that guests from Uganda spent the night in Valmiera.
The situation in the world has changed not only people's travel trends, but also information gathering habits. The role of digitization is growing. Therefore, we are actively working to create engaging content on both social media Facebook (+ 8% new followers) and Instagram (+ 13.4% new followers), and to ensure that people have access to current and engaging information on the web page visit.valmiera.lv (+ 16.7% increase in visitors), which will have a new and attractive design for the active tourist season. The most active people who visit and follow “Visit Valmiera” on Facebook are from Latvia, Great Britain and Estonia, while the most active cities in Latvia are also the same - Rīga, Valmiera and Cēsis.
Last year, continuing the highly targeted marketing activities for travelers from Estonia, we have supplemented the activities of the campaign “Valmiera – most Estonian-friendly town” - tourism entrepreneurs have been involved, representation souvenirs have been created, and a page has been created eestisobralik.lv, where everyone can cleverly create a greeting in Estonian. In 2021, the Zilaiskalns Cultural History and Visitors Center ZTORNIS started its second season with an offer of bicycles, which received more than 2,000 guests in 5 months. At the peak of the summer, a new café BŪDA has been opened on the Mazsalaca side, and the restaurant AKUSTIKA has been opened in Valmiera, which offers an unprecedented concept of serving food on the Valmiera side - the menu is designed so that each guest can combine their own meal. ZTRITON cycling amphibious has also developed its offer in the field of active recreation. At the end of the year, we published the first tourism guide for the Valmiera Municipality.
This year we will continue to acquaint travelers with the wide range of culture, nature, adventure and leisure activities in the Valmiera municipality and move towards the title of the European Capital of Culture 2027. At the end of the year, the cultural environment center of Valmiera Castle will be opened in the old town of Valmiera. We have started a thematic hiking cycle in February, but we will invite guests to take part in the Roadgames orienteering game for Easter. From July 22nd to 24th, Valmiera will celebrate its 739th anniversary, but, as usual, the Valmiera Summer Theater Festival will take place on the first weekend of August, complemented by the Days of Home Cafes. Gourmets will be pampered during Valmiera Restaurant Weeks (April 15th-24th and November 18th-27th), but lovers of active recreation and culture in various events throughout Valmiera municipality! Please follow the latest information on the developments that will be adapted in accordance with the COVID-19 control measures in the country.
See you in the Valmiera municipality!