Aglona Religious Festival Has a Positive Impact on the Economic Development, Claims Research by Graduate of Turiba (137)
To promote the rapid development of tourism in Latvia, it is necessary to carry out researches of various fields regularly, thus allowing evaluating and analysing the impact of events or tourism on the local community, environment, culture and economic growth. The graduate of International Tourism Faculty of Turiba University Edīte Šņepste in her master thesis „Evaluation of the impact created by Aglona religious festival” found out that one of the largest and most important events in Latvia – Aglona religious festival plays an important role in the national economic development.
In order to evaluate economical, environmental, cultural and social impact of Aglona religious festival, author of the research interviewed 13 entrepreneurs of Aglona district, 78 local people, 154 festival visitors during the event from August 2012 and 75 festival visitors after the festival.
The following figures affirm the economic impact: 31% of interviewed representatives of the company stated that the average turnover during Aglona festival is Ls 100 – 300, also the survey of festival visitors showed the same – 40% of interviewed festival visitors found that during festival have spent Ls 5 – 10. Taking into account the average number of festival visitors – 120 000 – the sum of money spent by each festival visitor during festival as a whole is evaluated between Ls 600 000 – 1 200 000, but public benefit range from Ls 120 000 to 250 000.
53% of the interviewed festival visitors mentioned festival fairs in the Aglova festival territory as the most frequently used services during festival, 39% of the respondents – visitors of the Aglona festival ate on the site, in the territory of the festival. 40% of the respondents does not use additional services, does not visit the tourism objects next to festival territory. 46% of the respondents stated that prices in Aglona district slightly rise during the festival.
The impact of the Aglona religious event on the natural environment is reflected in the results of the survey by festival visitors – 63% of inhabitants of Aglona district stated that the strongest impact is left by litter and environmental pollution, while 56% of the interviewed Aglona festival vistors stated that they choose to arrive to the festival by their own car.
Taking into account results obtained during the research the author of the research has concluded that Aglona religious festival leaves a postive economic impact. This is shown by expenditures of festival visitors during festival. While festival has a large negative impact on the environment, as evidenced by litter left in the festival and vehicles chosen by festival visitors to arrive at the festival. It was difficult to evaluate the social and cultural impact. The results obtained during the research show that 67% of the interviewed Aglona people find that festival leaves a positive impact on religion and 28% state that festival has a postive effect on traditions of people and district, but 15% note that festival has a negative effect on lifestyle and habits, therefore, the social and cultural impact of Aglona religious festival is evaluated both as positive, and negative.
During the study E. Šņepste developed various proposals for improving the festival and decreasing the negative impact. Firstly, local entrepreneurs of Aglona distric and neighbouring districts are advised to increase the capacity of the accommodation, increase the number of beds for accommodation companies which would favour the increase of income for entrepreneurs. Secondly, it would be useful for Aglona basilica to attract festival visitors from the international environment which would enable to attract visitors and additional funding, for example, eliminating negative impact of the festival.
Thirdly, author of the research for organizers of Aglona religious festival advises to limit tenting in lawn or by the waters in the free places near the festival place, indicating the certain places for visitors’ tenting. Such a solution would allow decreasing the negative impact on the natural environment created by the festival. Fourthly, in case of a great inflow of visitors the author of the research advises to introduce a small participation fee for people which do not represent any religious organization and visit the festival without particular goals. Thus, larger number of seats for religious organizations will be provided in the territory of the festival. The author of the research mentions that at the same time in this way it is possible to solve considerable moving of people during the festival by decreasing the negative impact on environment and facilitating the organized litter collection in the surrounding area.
In the same way E. Šņepste states that the organizers of Aglona religious festival should attract additional funding, for example, from European Union funds for decreasing the negative impact of the festival – number of waste bins, increasing the number of seats, improving parking-places, attracting additional employees or volunteers for decreasing the negative effect of the festival, for example, for regulating movement of vehicles, regulating queues of people, litter collecting.