VILNIUS – While Lithuania has mainly been a day stop on cruises to the Baltic in recent memory, it is hoping to change that in a big way.
Lithuania now wants to attract U.S. visitors for overnight stays and, to do so, has appointed a U.S. representative for the first time ever, according to Indre Slyziute, marketing manager for Lithuania’s State Department of Tourism under the Ministry of the Economy.
Last year Slyziute attended the ASTA Global Convention in Reno and she told Travel Market Report the response was strong enough that Lithuania is now expanding its U.S. efforts, including appointing Wayne V. Lee, Jr. and Wayne’s World Media as its U.S. representative.
In addition, it also held a trade event for ASTA’s New York Chapter and it is now planning webinars, a training program for U.S. agents and social media activity here.
Slyziute told TMR the response from both agents and operators has been positive, and he is working with both Insight Vacations and Travel Impressions to expand their programs that already include the country. While traditionally grouped with Latvia and Estonia or on trips that include Helsinki and St. Petersburg, Lee says new programs combining Lithuania and Poland are in the works.
The country has four UNESCO World Heritage sites—the Curonian Spit, Kernave Archaeological Site, Struve Geodetic Arc and Vilnius Historic Center—that are all a major draw for the country.
It is also seeking to attract both active travelers (there are over 3,000 lakes with paddle boarding and there is river kayaking and fishing) and well as tap into its 200 breweries by offering a trip down its “Beer Road” in the Biržai region, the country’s historic beer making capital.
Ballooning is also popular as flights over the old city near Vilnius’ Neris River are offered from several different vendors.
The largest market for agents to target might Americans with Lithuanian roots—there are over 700,000, mainly in Chicago and Los Angeles, many of who have never visited the country of their ancestors. There are also plans for tours with a focus on the country’s Jewish heritage.
Lee said he believes agents are critical to help get Lithuania into the consideration set and he is seeking to expand relationships with tour operators and consortia to make the country an easy sell.