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Business tourism sector's new option – hybrid events

The global pandemic has created a lot of new challenges for the tourism sector, which is likely to be also present in post-COVID period. Stable export performance and sustainable economic activity have shown that business tourism will gradually recover after the end of the pandemic, but it is already clear that it will not return to the same format as it has been before.

The current situation has allowed us to assess priorities and has taught us a lot of new training. In the business and events tourism sector, we have understood that the conference can be replaced by digital solutions and can reach an even larger audience. However, what is the “added value” of this sector – networking and communication – has not been fully replaced. This is exactly what the industry will have to focus on and look for ways to create valuable solutions to boost its competitiveness right now and in the future. We believe that the business and events tourism industry will bring together the best of face-to-face and digital format in the future. Therefore, it is our job to support a sector that has proven to be of high quality by working on-site activities.

Latvia has confirmed itself with a high quality of services

Latvia has created itself as a successful and growing destination for business and events tourism in recent years. With the convenient international connections, the convenient location of the airport near the cities of Riga and Jurmala and the high quality of service suppliers, there has been a rapid development of business and activity infrastructure in recent years. A number of new events were opened, including the largest conference centre in the Baltics.

If, at the beginning of the pandemic, nothing seemed to be simpler than organising online events, reality has now shown that a successful online event calls for much more than the creation of the “Zoom” link. We have realised that a high-quality online event also needs a place – a studio. At the moment, “new reality” has led to the development of a niche business of hybrid measures or gauges where the event is organised on site, while viewers and lecturers can connect online. When the situation becomes safer, it will also be possible to come to face-to-face. The biggest challenge of a successful hybrid event is to be able to attract and retain the attention of both face-to-face and online visitors at the same time. Unlike a spot-on event where a visitor physically leaves room during the event is, if not difficult, then uncomfortable, it is infinitely easier to leave the conference room at online events, especially in the case of a large audience. As a result, conference organizers face not only the challenge of offering the best technical solution but also ensuring a high quality of content, because in the event of an error, audience attention is lost, which is then clearly reflected in the data collected. Hybrid activities include effective communication prior to the event and registration, dynamic development of programme content, provision of high quality transmission, a platform for visitor-to-visitor communication, elements for entertainment and other activities, so that the attention of the online event visitor is held in the most unthinkable “background”.

In order to have adequate technical and visual support, both technical and space are needed and people who can put it together professionally. It is a full-fledged business niche in which several Latvian companies have already been able to register themselves. For example, the event agency “3K Management” received the Northern European event organisers' Association Award at the end of 2020 for the best organised online event “5G Techritory”. The conference was held in November 2020 and 180 experts from all over the world were assembled as speakers, while several thousand people joined the event. Two other Latvian companies were nominated for the award – the creative association “Skudra metropolis” and the agency “Meduza Event”. The creative director of 3K Management, Edgars Kuzmans, in sharing experience, stressed that hybrid events would not completely replace the face-to-face format, since such measures make it very difficult to create the emotional saturation that can be achieved in spot-on forums, yet for business conferences hybrid events is a very suitable format.

How hybrid measures will affect the situation in the tourism sector

Some of the tourism sector may be critical of the contribution of hybrid measures to the sector, but I would like to point out that once restrictions are relaxed, State aid will only be provided for hybrid or land-based measures, which will require all traditional services in the sector – catering, transport, rental of premises, accommodation, technical solutions, etc. like It will also be an opportunity to organise much larger events by attracting a wider audience and world-class lecturers. It should be borne in mind that, following the pandemic, there will be a major market redeployment in the global tourism sector, many of the old ones will no longer work. People will have changed their travel habits and at least initially will be more careful about the need for trips and the particular destination. As ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) figures show that one business tourist traveller's spending is three times higher than that of a recreational traveller, there is reason to believe that there will be fierce competition for destinations in the business and events tourism sector, as everyone is interested in restoring business tourism. Latvia has done a number of “homework” during this crisis, which will help the development of the sector by stabilising the situation. One of the work done is the establishment of a programme of Latvia Convention Ambassador (LCA) programme in cooperation with the Latvian Convention Bureau Office and the Riga Tourism Development Bureau. The programme aims to promote Latvia as a congressional destination by working with experts from different sectors of the world living in Latvia. The second work has been done is the creation of a Latvian events calendar – a statistical tool that will monitor the recovery of Latvia's business and activities tourism industry, as well as work as a marketing tool, presenting Latvia as a potential destination for future activities. The third significant work has been the development of an instrument supporting conferences, congresses and seminars.

State aid for hybrid measures

The Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) has encouraged a review of the support instruments available to the tourism industry in the International Competitiveness Programme, providing for co-financing to organise conferences of a million euro. The aid available for organising one measure is up to EUR 12 thousand. Support for live conferences was already available until now, but after approval of the amendments in the Cabinet the organisers of hybrid measures may also be eligible for co-financing. The rules provide that the organisers of the measures will be able to recover from 30 to 40 per cent of the eligible costs. The conditions of aid are consistent with the national restrictions on limiting the spread of the Covid-19 virus. In particular, events without visits will also be eligible for support under the restrictions of assembly, but if restrictions are reduced, measures will be supported, which will bring together at least 25 people outside Riga and 50 in Riga. This will also contribute to the recovery of the action industry, since the eligible costs will include catering, transport, visits to tourism facilities, rental of premises, technical costs for the operation and recruitment of lecturers. International digital conferences organised in Latvia will be supported by companies registered in Latvia for at least two years and will have attracted at least two service providers registered in Latvia. We are aware that it is an excellent destination advertising and that with the development of the format of such digital measures we can create an interest in Latvia in different regions of the world. Therefore, the conditions for aid are flexible. It should be stressed here that the organisers of the measures should take into account national epidemiological security measures.

The information prepared by the LIAA Tourism Department. Contacts: +371 67039415,

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