Artūras Petrauskas from Klaipėda's tourism and culture information center explains, “At the moment traveling within the country is not limited.” Nevertheless, to enter the country, some restrictions are still implemented (PCR tests and self-isolation). People that are fully vaccinated do not have to self-isolate.
It could change with the European Green passport. Go Vilnius director Inga Romanovskienė is pleased, “These initiatives will change travel opportunities for the better.” For its part, Eglė Ližaitytė hopes that the lockdown will be finished by the end of June. “The situation will be more relaxed then.”
Rise of local tourism continues
Because of the pandemic, it became harder to travel internationally. People tended to (re)discover domestic tourism last year, and this trend will continue, this summer at least. It is quite obvious that 2021 will be all local tourism-focused for Artūras Petrauskas.
In the near future, Vilnius expects to receive the largest number of guests from nearby countries, like Latvia, Poland, and Germany. “From those countries, you can easily access Vilnius using your own means of transport,” explains Inga Romanovskienė.
She adds, “We hope to keep domestic tourism on at least the same level as it was last year. We also look forward to welcoming guests from more distant countries, but we understand that their trips to the city will depend on how flight schedules are updated.”
In addition, Eglė Ližaitytė asserts, “The sanitary requirements in hotels and restaurants, to maintain a safe and disinfected environment, will remain – probably for months or years.”
International safety label for accomodation and restaurants
Lithuanian Hotel and Restaurant Association undertake an initiative in that sense: an international safety label for accommodation and restaurants to assure that those facilities are safe and clean. Eglė Ližaitytė claims: “We think that it's a top requirement for our guests, to ensure our country, and our hospitality businesses, hotels, and restaurants. Visitors are safe and secure to come and stay.”
In Klaipėda bars and restaurants are already open, but just in outdoor terraces to take food out. Museums are open as well but with limited groups of up to 10 persons and by respecting all the safety measures (face masks and safety distance of at least 1 m between each visitor).
Inga Romanovskienė appreciates seeing the restrictions’ easing: with the opening of museums, opportunities for guided group tours are increasing – both indoors and outdoors. She adds that the opening hours of restaurants and cafés are being extended, before stressing, "At the moment, the only restrictions concern nightclubs, but the rules are changing and we’re looking forward to things opening up even more."
Cycling tourism becomes more and more popular
Will some regions benefit more from the pandemics than others? For Artūras Petrauskas, “In the coastal region, there is enough space to ensure safety distances and a vast variety of outdoor activities outside or in nature.” As an example, he mentions cycling tourism, which gets every year more and more popular. He emphasizes that on the whole in Klaipėda region there are some really fine bicycle tracks: nearly 200 km of different quality cycling tracks to discover with family or solo.
Eglė Ližaitytė comments that such a trend was already observed last year: the countryside and seaside regions, Lithuanian resorts, as well as rural tourism, gained a lot of popularity amongst Lithuanians. She outlines: “Countryside holidays will be more popular than city breaks. Cities like Vilnius or Kaunas rely more on international and business tourism, also conferences… So unfortunately they'll remain either closed or with low occupancy.”
New museums to visit
Nevertheless, cities still have something to offer this summer. “Vilnius is a fantastic destination for a weekend full of different experiences: spending time actively in nature, tasting gourmet dishes, and visiting contemporary art and history exhibitions,” stresses Inga Romanovskienė.
She pursues: “New places inviting people to explore and relax are emerging in the city.” She enumerates some of the options. “Recently, the Vilnius City Museum opened its doors to visitors so that they can learn about the history of the city and its inhabitants.
The National Museum of Lithuania has opened the House of Histories – a modern, new, and inviting branch. And after four years of reconstruction, the iconic Soviet-era Neringa Hotel is once again welcoming guests.
The hotel’s legendary restaurant, which goes by the same name and was once a bohemian favorite, now offers dishes typical of that time, such as Chicken Kiev, and also features a rooftop terrace where guests can take in panoramas of the city.”
She also details that Senatorių Pasažas has been treating visitors to impressive gastronomic experiences in the Old Town since last summer and that Paupys, neighboring Užupis, is a new area getting popular among locals in Vilnius, with its new market and other recreational areas.
More individual routes
Klaipėda tourist office is focusing more on outdoor activities rather than indoors for its advertising. Artūras Petrauskas explains, “There are many individual routes for city hikes and cycling trails within the city, also a special interactive route with "talking sculptures" that share their story through your phone.”
Yet Vilnius is also a green city that is easy to navigate on foot, bicycle or scooter, and educational trails are popular. More outdoor activities are available in the summer, including café terraces and observation decks. Inga Romanovskienė mentions this will be reflected in the tourist offers.
Lithuanian Hotel and Restaurant Association observes that hotels are getting more creative these times, offering long weekend packages for local travelers, families, foreign tourists, including spa packages, outdoor activities, and so on.
During the low season, after the busy summer, hotels will again need some support to survive. To that end, Eglė Ližaitytė states, "Starting from late summer or early autumn until the end of this year, Travel. Lithuania will probably conduct a campaign 'stay 3 nights and pay for 2'.
Finally, Arturas mentions that it is still quite a popular game to gather the Country puzzle with all the 60 municipalities into one big magnet puzzle (“Surink Lietuva” project).
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