Coronavirus outbreak to impact Estonian tourism sector in 2020 ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Sleet in Tallinn's Old Town.
Sleet in Tallinn's Old Town. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Travel agencies say that, due to the safety and quarantine measures implemented as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and the increasing sense of danger of passengers, the decrease in the flow of tourism from China may also have an impact on the Estonian tourism sector.

Sven Lõokene, manager of travel agency Reisiekspert, said that the company is most affected by the cancellations of incoming group tourists. In March alone, Reisiekspert will not be able to welcome 25 tourist groups from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and elsewhere, which is more than 500 tourists in total.

Age Põder, head of partner relations at travel agency Go Travel, estimated that a more significant impact on travel organization may arrive for the Scandinavian and Baltic markets during the peak summer travel season, as groups from China may begin cancelling their planned trips to the region.

"Although the number of Chinese tourists staying the night in Estonia is not very large yet, they make up less than 1 percent of all visits to Estonia, then as day tourists arriving from Helsinki or as tourists visiting in the framework of tours, they can already make up an important source of income for several tourism sector companies in Estonia, too," Põder told BNS.

"So far, we have postponed one group trip to China, other trips have so far not needed changing pursuant to the recommendations of the Health Board and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," she added.

Travel cancellations by domestic tourists have also been registered. Airi Ilisson, head of marketing at travel agency Estravel, told BNS that customers have foremost cancelled trips taking place in the near future and foremost to countries where the virus has spread more widely. 

Lõokene, too, said that under fire are rather trips directed to the near future, but if the threat situation continues, blows could also be dealt to late spring and summer bookings. According to Lõokene, quite a high number of work trips are cancelled as several major international events, including the Geneva International Motor Show and international tourism fair ITB Berlin, have been cancelled this year, while several major corporations also have travel bans in effect.

"Private travelers are cancelling trips to regions with a higher-than-average level of threat and where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not recommend travelling to. People fear ending up in quarantine, that is that someone may end up falling ill at a vacation destination or on a cruise ship and this would result in healthy people also being unable to leave the location for 14 days," Lõokene added.

However, Põder said that, of all the trips sold by Go Travel, overwhelmingly in first place are package trips to warm countries like Greece, Turkey and Egypt as well as Cyprus, Bulgaria and Tunisia, which are not included among danger regions such as China, certain regions in northern Italy, Iran, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, which is why people are also not rushing to cancel those trips.

Ilisson said that although their customers, too, are continuing to travel to countries away from the spread of the virus, the volume of trips has nevertheless slightly decreased.

The average daily number of Estravel's travel bookings has also declined somewhat. "The decrease can foremost be seen with regard to last minute trips, however, people are then all the more interested in trips taking place further in the future, for example, in the winter or next year. People are also asking more for trips with more flexible cancellation terms, for example, when it comes to plane tickets, people look and ask for more flexible options, which we will then accordingly find in such cases," Ilisson added. A similar decline has also been noticed by Reisiekspert.

Ilisson said the virus outbreak will also have an impact on the company's financial results, but it is still too early to estimate the extent of that impact. "We hope that the situation will change and the virus retreat," she added.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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