According to Tarmo Mutso, Director of the Tourism Board of Enterprise Estonia (EAS), the fact that most tourists currently fail to visit Estonia outside of Tallinn is not a reason for worry. However, as the number of Russian and Finnish tourists traveling to Estonia is showing signs of decline, EAS has had to direct its attention toward Sweden.
The lack of visitors taking their travels outside of Tallinn has proven to be a problem for Estonian tourism for some time now. This, however, is also dependent on the point of origin of the tourists, Tarmo Mutso said.
"Those who visit Estonia more than once are also likely to make it further than Tallinn," Mutso told ERR, noting that it is understandable for visitors from Asia or the United States not to venture outside of the capital.
Mutso confirmed that tourists from neighboring or nearby countries generally have more reason to discover Estonia outside of its capital city. "But generally Tallinn will always take first place," he added.
According to Mutso, cultural events serve as the attractive aspect for tourists choosing to travel outside of Tallinn. "Rakvere serves as a good illustration with it's episcopal castle and events," he said, with the upcoming Estonian Mendance Festival serving as an example of enriching endeavours.
Mutso noted that whilst tourists travel across Estonia, overnight stays are generally organized in cities that serve as administrative centers. This is also reflected in the statistics that suggest a higher number of visits to cities that serve as such centers in their respective counties.
Estonia hopes to break myths spreading among the Swedes
Today serves as the last day for submitting ideas to EAS regarding how Estonia might attract more visitors from Sweden. "We haven't been able to lure in the Swedes," admitted Mutso, noting that the distance separating the countries is a short one and that the necessary connections are in place.
It is generally assumed that Estonia and Estonians are well-known amongst the Swedes. "Truth is, the Swedish youth doesn't really know anything about Estonia, and amongst those who do the general opinion of the country is not very good," Mutso said. The majority opinion amongst the Swedes still seems to be that of Estonia as an unsafe ex-Soviet country with substandard services. "We'd like to fix this situation," he added.
Ideas are being gathered in hopes of improving Estonia's image in Sweden as well as seeking to provide exciting new experiences. "We all have friends visiting from Sweden and we know what they like. Let's put those ideas together and invite them round, show them what we've got to offer. Ideally, the Swedes would share their experiences with those back home," Mutso explained.
Despite numbers of Finnish and Russian tourists also facing decline, Sweden serves as an untapped resource and a fresh market in terms of tourism.
Last year served as the third year in a row to display declining numbers of tourists travelling from Sweden to Estonia, with 71,963 Swedes visiting in 2014, a decrease of 3 percent in comparison to 2013. Overnight stays by Swedes saw a 6 percent decline in comparison to the previous year.
Editor: A. Kaer