Hourly trips between Tallinn and Helsinki could be introduced if there is enough demand, the chair of the board of Estonian ferry line Tallink said on Thursday, adding that lowering the excise duty on alcohol had given tourism a boost.
Speaking on ETV political discussion show Esimene stuudio, Paavo Nõgene said that Tallink was effective in marketing Estonia, something which it invests over €25 million annually.
Nõgene added that Estonia should heighten its focus on neighboring countries such as countries of Finland, Sweden, Russia, and Latvia.
"There is fierce competition in tourism. We need to look at how easy it is to attract people to Estonia," Nõgene said, speaking to ERR's Anna Pihl.
Tallink is one of three major lines to regularly run routes between Tallinn and Helsinki, the other two being the Finnish-owned Eckerö and Viking lines.
Nõgene said Tallink is a patriotic Estonian company and also plans to build new, environmentally friendly passenger ships.
"Our primary wish is to be prepared to advise the government that Estonian ships will fly the Estonian flag. There are also plans to build new ships. Airlines do not represent competition for us, because the more people leave Estonia with a positive experience, [the more] they come back," he continued.
Nõgene also rebutted a stereotype that Finns travel to Estonia purely to buy cheap alcohol.
"There are many beautiful places here, we have a beautiful old town [in Tallinn]. The Finns have a tradition of making short trips, and the number of these has started to grow," Nõgene said. "It's simple logic. They like to go to Estonia and spend money to have a nice time here."
Nõgene also claimed summer's alcohol excise duty cuts on beers and wines were having a positive effect on tourism.
"We also see that people visit Latvia, but this certainly does not make up the majority. The cut in excise duty is very gratifying, as tourism is affected by various factors," he said.
Nõgene also maintained Estonian-Finnish relations remained firm and had not been damaged by comments made by interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) late in 2019, to the effect that Estonia's northern neighbor now had a former salesgirl as prime minister.
"This ugly episode doesn't get a high score for style within the annals of Estonian-Finnish relations. But I'm sure that the Finns can figure out the difference between what's smart and what's not," he said.
The original Esimene stuudio broadcast (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte