A different tourism year in Valmiera in 2020

The Valmiera Tourism Information Center (TIC), as usual, in the first quarter of the year looks back at what has been done, compiles tourism statistics at the destination and opens new pages for ideas for next year. However, this time the past year is not and cannot be considered as usual. The year 2020 has left indelible traces in the history of the world, bringing great challenges to the tourism industry. Therefore, we want to look at the past year in tourism not only through the prism of dry numbers. Every day, statistical numbers in our news feeds are a stark reminder of the new world and its changes. We looked to see the people and the stories behind them – about traveling, about emotions and new habits in our daily lives!

Although last year due to the restrictions introduced in the country, the Valmiera TIC  was closed for on-site visits for more than two months, serving those interested only remotely, but last year we met 6621 people in person, in correspondence with recommendations for travel, we inspired 593 people and called 675 people. Under the influence of COVID-19, it resulted in a ~ 30% decrease in the number of visitors, compared to 2019, the number of guided group tours also decreased by 25%, however, analyzing people’s interest in the first months before the pandemic, a steady statistical increase was observed, which leads to the conclusion – the interest of travelers about Valmiera and its immediate surroundings as a destination is growing every year!  

The greatest feeling that travel and emotions are one of the necessities of a full life, we felt in the summer months – July, August and September, when the outbreak of the virus momentarily moved into the background, allowing travelers to relax a little, but the industry to work hard in the summer ignorance about in the fall. We invited travelers to get to know Valmiera, the Gauja National Park and other places close to Valmiera in Latvia. Also, a large increase in the number of requests for information was observed in December, which is associated with creative solutions during Christmas, inviting citizens and guests of Valmiera to enjoy the beauty of winter in Valmiera, go on themed holiday decoration routes, as well as experience unforgettable feelings in special “Gardens of Light”. In December, the Tourist Information Center delighted visitors with a wide range of souvenirs, inviting them to provide personalized Christmas gifts to their relatives under the city’s brand. Last year, the interest in active recreation and nature tourism objects, routes and walking places increased especially. This can be explained most directly by the restrictions imposed by the country on various tourist attractions, museum activities and cultural events. Newly developed and already popular cycling and walking routes, such as “Mežtaka”, “Zaļie Dzelzceļi”, a walk between 4 bridges in Valmiera, “Kino pedāļa puspedālis”, as well as many other offers, have only stimulated this interest.  

The global situation in the world has had a major impact on freedom of travel, leading to a significant reduction in the number of foreign visitors. In the TOP 5 list of foreign guests, the Valmiera TIC includes travelers from Estonia (60% of all foreign guests, an increase of as much as 3%), Russia (~ 3% of the foreign share), Lithuania (~ 8%), Germany (~ 9%) and Finland (~ 10%).  

A similar overall downward trend was observed in tourist accommodation. In 2020, 15,328 guests enjoyed the hospitality of Valmiera tourist accommodation, which is 28% or 5,973 fewer overnight stays compared to 2019. The total occupancy of beds in tourist accommodation has also decreased by 8%. However, like the number of interested people at Valmiera TIC, the number of overnight stays in the first months of the year – in January and February – were recorded with a stable increase. The increase in the number of overnight stays, compared to 2019, was also observed in July, August and September, but the greatest silence in tourist accommodation occurred in April, May and June, which corresponds exactly to the fluctuations of COVID-19 restrictions both in Latvia and in the world. The information provided by the city’s tourist attractions also marks a similar trend – the year had started very positively, which suggests – probably if not COVID-19, last year the increase in the number of tourists in Valmiera would have been with a big plus sign.  

Latvian residents (11,201) have used guest accommodation services in Valmiera the most, the number of which, compared to 2019, has decreased by 10.8%. A slightly smaller (6.8%) overnight stay of Latvian residents in Valmiera tourist accommodation was also observed in 2018. In 2020, 4,127 foreign guests were accomodated, which is 4,615 or 52.8% less than in 2019. Similar tendencies can be observed in the general situation in Latvia. The Central Statistical Bureau (CSP) reports – in 2020, half as many guests used tourist accommodations in Latvia.  

Analyzing the share of foreign overnight stays in Valmiera, the largest share of overnight stays consists of guests from Estonia (47.8%), Finland (13.9%), Lithuania (10.7%), Russia (5.3%) and Germany (4.1 %). In comparisson to the data from 2019, the share of overnight stays from Estonia has increased by 22.6%. The number of overnight stays from Finland (+ 1.1%) and Lithuania (+ 2.9%) has also increased.  

The situation in the country and in the world has changed not only people’s travel trends, but also information gathering habits. The role of digitization is growing. Therefore, the Valmiera TIC has also been active in creating engaging content both on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, and in ensuring that people have access to up-to-date and engaging information in the visit.valmiera.lv homepage and Facebook communities. Influenced by the virus, creative solutions have been found to involve people in non-standard format activities, such as various thematic itineraries, digital photo orientation events, virtual tours and active leisure activities. In the summer, openings of travelers’ stories were organized in the open air, as well as the tourism campaign “Get to know your own!” Received a great response. Considering the growing use of digital solutions, we created a special virtual reality story about the Iron Bridge as one of the objects of industrial heritage in Valmiera. In the story, people can imagine, how 100 years ago a cable car once ran along the embankment of a narrow-gauge railway, which is now inhabited on the Green Railways route. It is planned to integrate the virtual reality (VR) solution, which can be seen in VR glasses, into the offer, representing the Valmiera destination in various representative events.  

Worth mentioning, that the interest in the digital environment about the Valmiera tourism destination in the tourism web page visit.valmiera.lv can be assessed as stable. The total number of visitors to the site has increased by 3%. Although the number of unique IP addresses has decreased, it is positive that the number of new visitors has been growing every year since 2019. The Valmiera TIC is also active on social media. Visitvalmiera activity on the social media platform Instagram over the last three years has significantly resulted in an increase in the number of followers and involvement. Also the visitvalmier” Facebook page successfully implements the tourism marketing strategy, attracting target audiences with engaging content. In 2020, the number of followers of the page increased by 4%, reaching almost 12 thousand followers. The most active interested parties who follow the visitvalmiera Facebook page are from Latvia, Great Britain and Estonia, while the most active cities in Latvia in the above-mentioned account are Riga, Valmiera and Cēsis.  

This past year in Valmiera, “We rose higher!”, inviting people to enjoy the city festival in person, limiting to a certain number of visitors, complying with social distancing restrictions and epidemiological safety. The offer of the Valmiera Drama Theater, which treated theater lovers with performances also in summer, was also appreciated. The special cycle of cultural events “MŪDA” of Valmiera Culture Center also invited to events filled with nature and music. Although the general situation with the decrease in the number of visitors in 2020 can be observed everywhere, tourist magnets such as a ride on the Gauja river tram, the Gauja Steep Shore Park of Senses, Valmiermuiža brewery, as well as various farms, such as Beverīna wooden sculpture labyrinths or mini zoo “Mežiņi”, which is especially popular among families. Despite the unstable situation in the industry, the tourism offer of Valmiera and the surrounding area was expanded with new offers – Pizza factory OZO, boats and paddle lovers on the bank of the Gauja near the Kazu rapids were pleased with a new offer from the rowing club “Straume”, offer of organically reared lamb burgers at “OZO” burger joint. The unique object “Z-Tower” has been opened in Zilākalns, allowing you to get to know the stories of mythical shrines and peat bogs in Kocēni region, while at the beginning of 2021 a new cafe “Ahh-Meat” opened, inviting you to get to know the world of Turkish cuisine.  

This year, Valmiera is committed to running for the title of European Capital of Culture 2027, a new exposition and Valmiera Castle Cultural Environment Center are being created, as well as the large-scale reconstruction works of Jānis Daliņš Stadium and the construction of an athletics arena are nearing completion. Experiencing the changes of the territorial reform in 2021, Valmiera region is proud to invite you to get acquainted with the rich offer of tourism, which is based on traditions, natural and cultural heritage, as well as attractive and interesting events.  

From July 23rd until July 25rd Valmiera will celebrate its 738th anniversary, from August 6th to 8th the annual and popular Valmiera Summer Theater Festival will take place, on June 12th the ethno-festival “Sviests” and the fair “Gardu Muti” will be held, Notable sporting events are expected in June, when the 13th World Women’s Floorball Championship’s qualifying tournament is expected at the Vidzeme Olympic Center from June 1st to 5th, and the UEC European Cup in BMX Cycling will take place on June 5th and 6th at the Māris Štrombergs BMX track. We encourage you to follow the current information on the developments that will be adjusted in accordance with the COVID-19 control measures in the country.   See you in Valmiera!  

Information prepared by:
Anita Tīlena
Head of Valmiera TIC,
Valmiera city municipality
Mob. phone.: +371 25664420

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