During the year 2003 Latvian Country Tourism Association surveyed 1367 respondents from Latvia and abroad in order to find out the consumer perception of rural tourism and the relative importance of environmental and service quality aspects influencing the consumer choice of a holiday site.
Perception on Rural Tourism
Results of the Survey show that Rural Tourism as a subject for inhabitants of Latvia associates mostly with active recreation: horseback riding, bicycling, hiking etc. (72%). As well Survey clearly shows the Rural Tourism direct association with undisturbed recreation and privacy without much contacts with the owners of the vacation cottage (45%), recreation in country house (41%), recreation in agricultural farms (34%) and B&B country houses (30%). In comparison with Latvian tourists foreign respondents mostly associate Rural Tourism with recreation in vacation cottage or B&B establishment.
Rural Tourism service consumption
Majority of the Latvian respondents (83%) have been using rural tourism services in the countryside of Latvia before and only small part of them (17%) have been staying in rural accommodation in other countries. The Survey shows that Latvia's respondents spend their vacation away from home in average 4.8 times in year.
Safety of reservation
Latvian respondent considers that the most reliable way to make a reservation is direct communication with the host. The same level of reliability is to make a reservation by country tourism association. on half reliable way to make reservation of country house is by using the tourism agency but the less reliable way seems to be the reservation made through the Internet from point of view of Latvian respondents. In comparison with Latvian tourists foreign respondents considers the reservation made through the Internet more reliable then it could be done through the tourism agency.
Importance of Quality categories, certificates and professional organizations
Nearly one-third part of Latvian respondents (29%) always takes into account quality categories (stars in Latvia, flowers, olives etc. symbols in other countries) of countryside recreation places they are searching for vacation. More then a half of the Latvian respondents (56%) only sometimes takes into consideration the quality standards but 7% of respondents are not influenced by the quality categories in their choice at all. In comparison with Latvian tourists foreign respondents are much more concerned about quality category of the rural tourism service/home - almost a half (48%) of foreign respondents surveyed most definitely takes into consideration the quality category granted to the place by choosing the vacation place.
The quality certificates, eco-certificates and membership of professional rural tourism organizations seems to be less important then quality categories - only 17% respondents are influenced by these factors in way of making choice of recreation place in countryside. More than a half of Latvian respondents (55%) are influenced partly by the quality certificates, eco-certificates and membership of professional rural tourism organizations in way of making choice of recreation place in countryside, but 21% respondents - are not influenced at all.
It is essential that the quality categories, quality and eco-certificates and membership of professional organization play more sufficient role for recreation place preference by growth of respondents' age and incomes level.
Most important quality criteria
Most important preference of recreation place chosen by Latvian respondents appears to be geographical situation and charming landscape. The same importance appears to be various recreation and service offer. on average important appears to be personal regard, but less important appears to be safe and handy reservation and high standards of premises. Foreign respondents prefer high standards of premises but are not so interested in various recreation and service offer in comparison with the Latvian respondents.
Opinion variation on quality criteria is seen in different respondents age stages. If youngsters (up to 25 years) takes into consideration various recreation and service offer than respondents older then 35 years considers as more important personal regard. Opinion variation between respondents with different income level does not exist.