Russian tourist numbers in Estonia have not recovered
Following a sharp decline after 2014, Russian tourist numbers do not show any real signs of recovering in Estonia, and Tallinn hotels, for example, aren't eager to attempt to predict how many may spend New Year's Eve in Estonia's capital.
The cooling of relations between the two countries, economic sanctions and the worsening of Estonia's eastern neighbors' standard of living have all left a lasting mark — the number of overnight visitors from Russia has been very slow to recover, with figures remaining approximately one-third lower than just a few years ago.
The first ten months of 2016 saw a modest 6,800, or 2.1-percent, increase in overnight stays by Russian tourists compared to the same period last year. This figure is meager, however, considering 2016 and 2015 figures dropped 39 and 37 percent, respectively, compared to the same period of time in 2013 and 2014, when Russian tourists racked up a total of over half a million overnight stays in Estonia.
"Since the beginning of the year, most counties have been in the red, excepting [the city of] Tallinn, Harju and Ida-Viru Counties," said Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association director Maarika Liivamägi, highlighting the fact that Russian tourists do not frequently travel to other parts of the country.
"We have seen a slight improvement compared to last year in September and October," she highlighted.
It remains too early to say, however, if New Year's Eve will bring relief to the accommodations sector, as year after year, trips are planned less far in advance. "The tendency is toward particularly short-notice booking — 'Booking today, coming tomorrow,'" Liivamägi described to ERR.
She acknowledged that this is why hotels aren't particularly keen on making and sharing predictions with the professional association despite the fact that fall figures have provided reason to hope that New Year's Eve numbers will improve as well.
"Hotels are ready and waiting," Liivamägi confirmed about Estonia's accommodations sector. "No doubt the New Year's period is major draw — there are programs and events going on, and the Tallinn Christmas Market is a major attraction as well."