With swaths of Europe being choked by sweltering heatwaves, Lithuania’s July is not pampering local holidaymakers with sunny days. Not surprisingly, many domestic tourists who had planned their holiday on the Lithuanian seaside make last-minute adjustments after checking weather forecasts.
“Indeed, the weather is the defining factor for Palanga. However, lately, its importance has diminished a little bit, as more Palanga guests are aware of the unpredictability of weather and book SPA visits, and other indoor activities, thus partly replacing passive sunbathing on the beach. The majority are looking for services of higher quality,” Rasa Kmitienė, director of Palanga Tourist Information Centre (PTIC) told BNN.
In summer, Palanga, Lithuania’s largest resort at the Baltic Sea, is dubbed Lithuania’s summer capital – due to the volume of Palanga-bound guests.
According to her, reservation data clearly show the trend –
increasingly more people book hotels with a variety of amenities and services.
Although this summer, with the average temperature rarely hovering over 25 Celsius, has not yet brought huge crowds to Palanga, some of the events, like the 6th of July, known as the Day of Coronation of King Mindaugas, and the St John events in June saw the country’s largest resort full up to the brim.
“August awaits ahead and the month usually ushers in many sunny days perfect for pampered holidaymakers,” the PTIC head said.
Asked to break down the composition of Palanga visitors this summer, R. Kmitienė said that domestic tourists comprise the majority.
“Several adverse factors, like the COVID pandemic and war in Ukraine have boosted the volume of local tourists. The top three nationalities are our neighbors: Latvians, Poles Estonians. However, this summer, we are also recording more Czech, Danish, German, French, and Italian tourists,” she said, adding: “Understandably, the public health contingency (COVID) has taken a heavy toll on the Palanga-bound flows of foreign tourists, however,
we are rebounding swiftly to the pre-pandemic levels,”
R. Kmitienė says that air connectivity is another factor determining the scope of foreign guests in Palanga.
“With a new Palanga-bound flight we see a significant increase of guests from the respective countries, and vice versa,” she said.
With Palanga being home to one of the most modern camping sites in the region, the number of those who arrive in Palanga in camping vans is also rising, Palanga tourism manager said.
Before the war, Slavic tourists constituted a tangible chunk – around 15 percent – of all the visitors in Palanga, but
with sanctions against Russia and Belarus in place, they dwindled to less than one percent.
“However, some of the foreigners aware of the proximity of Russia, sometimes ask us how to get to the border. Honesty, after the war started, we’d receive anxious calls from abroad enquiring about travel safety in Lithuania, and Palanga, too, but, now, the kind of calls stopped,” R. Kmitienė emphasised to BNN.
As Lithuanian seaside sees an approximately 10-15 percent rise in both accommodation and food prices. Besides, parking fees went up by 0.2 euro per hour on average and the so-called ‘pillow tax’ went up from 1 euro to 2 euros per day per person in Palanga starting the 1st of July this year.
Ingrida Valaitienė, ex-president of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Palanga, says no one should expect the same prices because local services are also influenced by wobbly supply chains.
“We have increased the price of a room in our hotel by five euros this year, because sales are high for early bookings, because everyone understands that the earlier you book, the better price you get,” Vladas Tautkus, a Palanga restaurateur, said.
The increase may be a factor for some holidaymakers when picking their holiday destination,
however, the majority are not spooked by it.
Romena Savickienė, Director of Klaipėda Tourism and Culture Center, told BNN that the tourist flows are still approximately 20-30 percent shy of the pre-pandemic level.
“However, this summer, we’re erasing the shortage. Cruise ship passengers are back; again we see a lot more Germans here. Of course, our closest neighbors, Latvians, Estonians, and Poles, enjoy Klaipėda as always,” she said, adding: “Speaking on the whole, we see a garden variety of tourists in Klaipėda. Even from far-flung countries,” Klaipėda’s top tourism manager emphasised.
She admits that last year, with the war in Ukraine ranging, her Centre would receive calls on the safety of travels in Lithuania, but such calls ended this year.
According to the Neringa Tourist Information Centre, the cheapest offers have already been snapped way before summer, although a third to a half of the local hotels and restaurants raised prices by roughly 10 percent.
In the hottest season – from mid-June to mid-August – Neringa is bursting at its seams,
and the 30 euro toll payable upon entering Neringa municipality does not deter many travellers.
According to Neringa mayor Darius Jasaitis, construction of a 700-space parking lot is planned to begin in the fall.
“When there will be enough space to park all the cars outside the settlement of Nida (administrative center of Neringa municipality – L. J.), we will make a decision that it will be possible to simply walk into Nida, or maybe get in it on golf carts, electric bicycles or scooters,” Darius Jasaitis told Lithuanian media.
Druskininkai Tourism Information Center was not available for comment.
Meanwhile, Lithuania’s northern municipalities, like Biržų municipality, as always, pin their hopes on local tourists.
“Mostly we rely on domestic tourism and Latvians, who are at hand’s reach,”
a representative of Biržai Tourism Center told BNN.
Meanwhile, Druskininkai, Lithuania’s premier resort in the south, is scrambling to replace the disappearance of sanctions-hit Belarusians.
When it comes to outbound tourism, things are as usual – Turkey basks in unchallengeable glory.
According to Kazimieras Jarmalis, sales manager at a major Baltic travel agency, this is not surprising, as the country is known for sunny weather and is developing rapidly, providing more high-quality services. No 2 on Lithuanians’ list is Greece, but more Lithuanians pick Macedonia and Bulgaria as their holiday destination.