Valmiera Tourism Innovation Hackathon - Turning ideas into reality

The Valmiera Tourism Innovation Hackathon was held on June 27 and 28, seeking to improve existing services and develop new products to attract Estonian and Latvian tourists to Valmiera. Working together with representatives from various industries, ten great ideas were developed over 24 hours.
First place went to “Valmiera Art Portal”, developed by Benedik Paulauskas, Jēkabs Ozols, Keitija Litte, Anda Kārkliņa, Domenik Paulauskas and Vilas Muhametšins. This team proposed running an annual event bringing technology and art together in three different realities in Valmiera. The first stage would be a competition in which the residents of Valmiera choose the places in the city they would like to develop as tourist attractions. Next, artists will present their ideas via large digital sculptures. Every year, the winning virtual sculpture will be made into a real art object in the urban environment.
The jury awarded second place to two concepts. Firstly, "Park 'n’ ride” by Undīne Kobitjeva, Oļģerts Klāvs Balabāns, Līva Vilsone-Paegle, Nauris Vasiļevskis, Reinis Bajors and Jānis Trautmanis, who offer tourists freedom of movement by renting environmentally friendly vehicles. By switching between bicycles, electric scooters and boats, visitors and residents could quickly and easily visit different places in Valmiera at any time.
Second, "Ice Cream" by Iluta Urbanoviča, Aigars Strauss, Agita Līviņa, Laura Kindzule, Gvido Sīka, Mareks Kalniņš and Krišs Ozols, who proposed a marketing campaign based on a Latvian delicacy craved by Estonians - ice cream, inviting them to explore, spend the night and fall in love with Valmiera. They also suggested creating a unique ice cream with six scoops embodying the special flavours of Valmiera.
Third place went to the idea “FriendliEST” by Anna Urbāne, Kaspars Urbāns, Toms Treimanis, Mārtiņš Čiekurs and Andris Tolmanis, who suggest developing an application that makes Valmiera even more tourist-friendly. Using the app, tourists could plan a visit to the city by learning about sightseeing routes and tailor-made offers involving local home producers. This app could also be linked to the public transport network and facilitate payment for parking.
The idea “Discover Valmiera” and its developers Jānis Berķis, Adele Jākobsone and Rūta Bukava received an award of commendation from “VALPRO” Ltd. The brewery "Valmiermuiža" commended the idea "Krāču kakts" (Corner of Rapids) by Gunārs Deniškāns, Laine Uzulēna, Elīna Žuravļeva, Ilze Liepa, Baiba Freimane, Mārcis Bogdanovs and Tija Misiņa.
The participants' narration of their ideas and the jury's decision can be seen in a video on Valmiera's Facebook page.
“Even very well-run cities and businesses need to be examined with fresh eyes. And by working with people from diverse fields, we gain new knowledge and outside-the-box ideas, producing unexpected solutions,” said jury member Kristaps Siliņš, managing partner at “McCANN Riga”. According to Andris Klepers, a member of the mentoring team, associate professor and researcher at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences, “it is a unique experience for the participants to be in such a creative team. While our main task was to look for solutions in the post-crisis situation, several ideas could become long-term goals for the development of Valmiera tourism. It is important to continue cooperating with the teams and finding opportunities to implement their ideas”. Estonians comprise the largest group of foreign tourists in Valmiera, frequenting places of recreation, Valmiera Tourist Information Centre, as well as cafes, restaurants and shops. Statistics based on accommodation show that approximately 25% of all foreign guests in Valmiera come directly from Estonia (2019 data). Valmiera is also a new tourist destination for many Latvians.
“Valmiera definitely has a special attraction for Estonians. And it is not just one thing - it is a collection of many possibilities and feelings. It is important to communicate with people so we don’t miss out on anything when visiting Valmiera,” said Katrin Nigumann, a member of the jury and the head of “Estonian Makers”. “Foreign guests say that Valmiera is green and could be even greener, that Valmiera is creative and innovative, that Valmiera is delicious, because we have many companies that pamper our taste buds. We must strive so that Estonians regard Valmiera as the most hospitable city in Latvia, so we need to create an atmosphere in which they feel welcome here. The hackathon helps us to see that the concept of tourism is created not only by tourism professionals, but also by information and technology specialists, artists and so on.  It produces new ideas,” said Aigars Ruņģis, a jury member and owner of "Valmiermuižas alus". “I liked what the winning team said about how the interaction of green thinking and technology is important for Valmiera. When experts from different fields come together, ideas start to sprout. I heard a lot of insights that I had not thought about in my daily work, which help to discover the best solution,” said Gatis Špats, a jury member and a specialist in information security and DevOps at “Wunder Latvia”.
Thank you to the jury for its valuable contributions! The jury consisted of: Jānis Baiks, Chairman of Valmiera City Council, Aigars Ruņģis, owner of “Valmiermuižas alus” brewery, Kristaps Siliņš, managing partner at “McCANN Riga”, Katrin Nigumann, head of “Estonian Makers” and Gatis Špats, information security and DevOps specialist at “Wunder Latvia”.
The hackathon was organized by Valmiera City Council in cooperation with Valmiera Development Agency, Valmiera Tourist Information Centre, Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences and Vidzeme Olympic Centre.
Sponsors: White label, Neonija, Vidzeme Planning Region, SIA “VALPRO”, brewery “Valmiermuižas alus”, Kokmuiža, Gardu muti, the Park of Senses “Gaujas Stāvo krastu Sajūtu parks”, Valmiera Swimming Pool, Adventure games "Timemachine", Sniega tehnika, SIA "Naukšēni, Bolt, Red Bull, Rowing Club "Straume", Food Union, Valmieras piens, WVR, Medus kāre, Kafe serviss.
Information prepared by:
Zane Bulmeistare
Valmiera City Council
Deputy Head of Brand Management and
Public Relations Department
Mobile phone: +371 26443410