Recent expats returning to Estonia as tourists ({{commentsTotal}})

Paddling through the flooded regions of Soomaa National Park is an annual ritual for nature-loving tourists. Source: Photo: Pärnu Postimees/Scanpix

The majority of tourists in Estonia still come from neighboring countries Finland, Russia and Latvia, according to a study commissioned by Enterprise Estonia. However, the study does point to an emerging trend, with increasing visits from recently emigrated Estonians returning as foreign tourists.

The study reveals the emerging phenomenon of recent expats returning to visit their relatives in Estonia, as well as the prevalence of returning visitors, with only 19 percent of respondents visiting for the first time.

According to the study by Enterprise Estonia, the majority of visitors who stayed overnight in 2014 came from Finland. Out of those arriving from Russia, 15 percent of tourists stayed the night, whereas only 5,6 percent of Latvians did the same.

While numbers for day trips are slightly different, the line-up of countries of origin – Finland, Russia, Latvia – is the same. Notably, however, more than half of the tourists from the three neighboring countries have been to Estonia at least six times.

According to Tarmo Mutso, Director of the Tourism Board of Enterprise Estonia, the study reveals Estonia to be a hospitable country. Those arriving from Russia had the highest regard for the local people and services.

Mutso pointed out that the study also breaks the common myth of the wealthy Russian traveling to Estonia to spend extravagantly.

"The average tourist from Russia generally spends moderately. Their visits are not limited to Tallinn, they make their way to other administrative centers, such as Narva, Pärnu and Tartu. Another important aspect is that they make returning visits," Mutso explained.

Tourists spent 328 euros on average throughout their stay in Estonia in 2014, with an average daily expenditure of 137 euros. The most money was spent by those visiting from the United States, 640 and 153 euros respectively, whereas the Russian traveller spent 295 euros during their trip and 105 euros daily. Regardless of their country of origin, tourists in Estonia enjoy visiting restaurants and cafés, shopping or getting to know the local attractions independently.

The study by Enterprise Estonia is the first thorough study of tourism in Estonia in five years. Whilst general trends have stayed the same throughout the years, this year's study does point to the emerging phenomenon of emigrated Estonians as tourists.

"A lot of people have left Estonia at one point. They've moved to live in Finland, the UK or Sweden and the statistics now show that those people are returning to visit Estonia as foreign tourists, suggesting that their ties with Estonia have not entirely been cut off," commented Anu Tõnurist, principal analyst at Statistics Estonia.

14 percent of study respondents had previously lived in Estonia, arriving mainly from the Nordic countries, with Norway, Sweden and Denmark amongst the most prevalent points of origin. The emigrants were more likely to stay for extended periods as well as travel with children than those with no prior ties to the country.

Editor: A. Kaer

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