Good riddance: Latvia casts off Britain's stags

Industry targets 'a different kind of tourist'

On a hot summer's day in the Latvian capital, the only tourists sitting at the outdoor cafés in the main square of Riga's pretty Old Town are a few elderly couples who have disembarked their cruise ship for the day and are sipping cappuccinos. It's a far cry from the scene just a year ago, when the same cafés were packed with British men dressed as nuns or sporting Borat "mankinis" while downing cheap pints of local beer.

When the low-cost carrier Ryanair began flying to Riga four years ago, the pleasant Baltic city quickly became one of the top destinations for stag nights, with marauding bands of young British men descending on the city to take in its cheap alcohol and strip clubs.

But now, Riga's status as the stag capital of Europe is over. The financial crisis has combined with ill feeling on both sides to end the love affair between British men and the Latvian capital.

With rising air fares, fewer Britons are able to justify splashing out on a foreign stag trip but not many Latvians are mourning the loss.

Latvia has been hit worse than almost any other EU country by the financial crisis and its economy is expected to shrink by more than 15 per cent this year. But even as the country finds itself in desperate need of revenue, there is no desire to see the return of stag parties en masse. Articles in Latvian newspapers are thankful that the "British threat" has receded, and focus on a drive to increase cultural tourism instead.

"People here are definitely fed up with the stag parties," says Ojars Kalnins, the director of the Latvian Institute, a think-tank linked to the country's Foreign Ministry.

"There are far fewer of them now. They tend to migrate from city to city – they destroy one place and then move on to the next "hotspot". They came to Riga because there were cheap airfares, alcohol, tobacco and women. It's sad because Latvia has so much more to offer. We're hoping to attract a different kind of tourist in the future."

A host of companies still advertise organised stag tours to Riga, offering pub crawls, strip clubs and even a limousine filled with strippers to pick groups up from the airport.

But British visitors complain that many venues set out to rip people off, while dozens of angry Britons on the forums at complain that attractive women who approached them in bars turned out to be prostitutes or thieves.

The in-flight magazine of Air Baltic, Latvia's national carrier, takes the unusual step of providing new arrivals in the country with a "blacklist" of venues in Riga that are known to rip off tourists and a series of tips on how to avoid falling victim to scams.

The actions of con artists, writes the airline's chief executive Bertolt Flick, should not be allowed to "frighten off foreigners". He complains that the Latvian authorities are doing little to combat the city's problems.

There is a feeling among many Latvians, however, that the stag parties are simply getting the treatment they deserve. Matters came to a head last month when local media reported that a British tourist in the Latvian capital had got into a fight with security guards at a club when presented with an extortionate bill for drinks. The British man had to be taken to hospital but not before breaking the jaw and biting off the ear of the Latvian bouncer.

Some restaurants and bars in Riga have started displaying signs in English stating that stag parties are not welcome and few ordinary Latvians have anything good to say about their run-ins with British revellers.

"I always dreamed of going to England and I imagined that Englishmen would all be real gentlemen, like Sherlock Holmes," said Marika, 21, a student from Riga. "Then, they started coming to my city and I saw that they are little more than animals."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn