Q&A with Aigars Smiltāns, Director of Meet Riga

Q&A with Aigars Smiltāns, Director of Meet Riga

As part of our Culture Roadshow for IBTM World 2022, we sat down with our finalists at the show to find out more about their destination, how the culture of their destination can inspire event planners and anything exciting coming up in 2023.

In this blog, we’re talking to Aigars Smiltāns, Director of Meet Riga.

How is culture important to your destination?

Our destination has a multi-layer culture thanks to many influences dating back to tribal times – Germans, the Swedish kingdom, imperial Russia, and the Soviet Union.

Through all those years we managed to keep our culture alive, so for Riga/Latvia as a destination, I think that this multi-layer culture is a unique selling point.

Do you have any specific new initiatives or projects on the way?

Sustainability is getting more and more important for us and our sitting council signed the Paris agreement for a carbon-neutral destination, so certainly one of the upcoming initiatives in the next few years will be for sustainability projects.  Then we also are going to have a refocus on association meetings.

Previously there’s been a lack of funding and lack of support, so we weren’t able to do many things but there are some new initiatives for the financing of events so association meetings are also within our next plans.

What sets your destination apart from the competition?

A lot of clients have the assumption that we are Eastern Europe (culturally) but geographically we are a Nordic destination and this is a plus for us, as for a Nordic destination we are very competitive in many aspects. We are a nation of workaholics and we offer great value for money as well as good accessibility.

Riga is a very safe place – I like to joke that any protests or riots here only happen for an hour after which everyone just goes back to the office instead of ruining the city.

How can your culture inspire event planners?

What we are trying to do is to offer some local elements such as food or cultural programmes. Some of the delegates who arrive have low expectations but then some of them end up leaving with a very big wow-experience of our destination. 

We are easy to reach but it’s hard to leave without having any emotions after having such a good experience. As one Dutch event planner recently said after his visit: ‘Riga and Latvia are like a big chocolate shop; there’s a flavour for everybody.’

How has being a part of the IBTM Culture Roadshow supported your brand this past year?

For us this is a part of our DNA, we know and are proud of this, as well as our culture and traditions and we are proud to have preserved them throughout the years.  We are rather humbled and not trying to put ourselves on a big stage over small things. We are a hidden treasure.

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