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      A Perspective on Developments in Lithuanian Hospitality

      Evalda Siskauskiene - President - LVRA

      The Educational Institute recently spoke with Evalda Šiškauskiene, President of the Lithuanian Hotel and Restaurant Association (LVRA), a national association of hotels and restaurants and the single largest hospitality business unifying social organization in Lithuania, and Liudvika Kazlauskaite, head of the Tourism Management Department at the International School of Law and Business in Vilnius, EI's Global Academic Partner (GAP) school, to discuss the hospitality development from two perspectives, that of industry professionals and education centers.

      Q: What trends do you see emerging in Lithuania hospitality and how is the industry preparing to address those trends?
      A: Lithuania is really distinguishing itself in the provision of high-quality hotels, resorts and renovated chateau-style accommodation. Among other new properties, two new chains unveiled hotels in Vilnius in recent months - the luxury chain Kempinski and the Norwegian chain Comfort.

      Hotels in Lithuania continue to do good business, with occupancy rates rising along with capacity. There are currently 7,873 beds in 4,080 rooms in 76 hotels in the capital, and 24,909 beds in 12,113 rooms in 341 hotels overall in Lithuania. This does not include other types of tourism accommodation such as hostels and sanatoriums, which are also prevalent across the country.

      LHRA is currently working on the introduction of a new classification system. The internationally recognised system managed by the HotelsStars Union under the patronage of the European Union's HOTREC association will replace the outgoing national system.
      It will be obligatory for Lithuanian hotels to be rated. It's a more flexible system that will be better for hotels and guests alike. Guests staying in Lithuania will be able to understand the standard of hotels on a European level.

      Q: What is the biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry in Lithuania the next year-5 years-10 years? 
      A: The biggest problem in Lithuania is seasonability, so our nearest task is to develop conference and medical tourism in Lithuania. Our first contact fair for conference tourism, CONVENE, was held this year in February, for all Baltic region and it is going to be traditional every year.

      Another exciting development that hotels in Lithuania are getting involved in is golf tourism, offering packages that include rounds at the country's five professionally designed courses. For example, a golf break 20 minutes' drive from Vilnius at Le Meridien Vilnius, a sprawling 186-room resort-style spa hotel with neighbouring PGA golf course called The V Gold Club could also include visits to the nearby Capitals Golf Club and the Centre of Europe Golf Club. And it's no problem to then extend a stay with visits to the Vilkes (Wolf) Golf Club in the relaxing spa resort of Druskininkai and the National Golf Resort near the coastal city of Klaipeda.

      Another fascinating development is a wave of openings of freshly renovated chateaus in Lithuania - manors and estates that fell into disuse during the 20th century but which now shine in all their former glory - and welcome guests to stay. Each manor has a specialty or combination of specialties - antiques, concerts, gastronomy and slow food, costumed medieval feasts, wine or beer-tasting, saunas, fishing, horse-and-carriage rides, cycling, kayaking, cross-country skiing.

      Q: What is your school doing now to meet the increasing demands for hospitality education and training in Lithuania in the future?
      A:The supply and competition of the hospitality education is very tough now in Lithuania. Each region has a school or several schools, which train hospitality specialists. As a destination, Lithuania is being discovered together with other Baltic states, therefore hospitality business has a potential to expand. The number of trained hospitality specialists is also growing and the competition in this area is increasing every year with new graduate editions. Each school is trying to gain its competitive advantage by offering students double degree programmes with foreign hospitality schools, top-up years, and exchange programmes not leaving aside practical training possibilities. This is a common complex each university offers for their students.

      The International School of Law and Business strives to create better education options in partnership with international educational institutions. As a result, we have created progression routes to leading Swiss hotel management schools where our students can pursue international degrees as well as gain valuable experience for their future careers. The practical training is based on in-company training and on-site learning, while a growing number of international internship opportunities does not only add value to the education but also inspires students to seek further career growth and personal development.

      A year ago the school signed an agreement with American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. This has been a small step for international cooperation for the school but a giant leap for the graduates of the ISLB. This breaking-through opportunity opens the door for the graduates to experience the added privilege of the education in international career. Perhaps the Lithuanian market might seem too small for EI hospitality training traditions, but facing the globalisation and increasing emigration, it would be unforgivable to ignore the fact of emerging new markets and becoming global citizens. Our study programme has been partially merged with EI 12 course Hospitality Management Diploma programme, the programme stands out of all other programmes offered on the market and is popular with international students. Other EI products will be offered to students and the people from the industry, which would be a fresh injection of hospitality mind-set and skill set for the professional.

      About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
      Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute’s mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.