Tourist sector likely to be hit hard by coronavirus effects ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Cruise ships at the Port of Tallinn. These are barred at least until the start of May.
Cruise ships at the Port of Tallinn. These are barred at least until the start of May. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The tourist sector in Estonia is already experiencing a downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and is forecasting further decline. Tallinn Airport says it is likely to see a drop in flights in the coming weeks, though all scheduled flights to and from the airport are still running at present. The Port of Tallinn, which has already stopped cruise ships from docking, similarly expects a downturn. The hospitality sector says it has already been hit by cancellations and a drop in bookings, with more likely to come.

Tallinn Airport

Eero Pärgmäe, Commercial Director of Tallinn Airport, flights and travel are happening today, but a fall in flights in the next few days is inevitable.

"Flights home are happening. They will continue this week and next week, though next week we will see more cancellations. As things stand right now we will see cancellations through to the end of May. April will certainly see the lowest number of flights, and May will depend on the [future] circumstances," Pärgamäe said, noting that major airports in China have already lost 85 percent of their regular throughflow.

Port of Tallinn

The Port of Tallinn has also seen a fall in arrivals already. Valdo Kalm, Port of Tallinn CEO, said that visitor numbers in March so far had fallen between 10 and 20 percent.

The Port of Tallinn canceled all cruise ship visits until May. The number of boat tourists has also decreased.

"The first quarter will be relatively normal overall, but going forward, I think the decline will worsen. The second and third quarters are likely to see a greater downturn in the passenger business. However, it's very difficult to predict right now," Kalm said.

The Port of Tallinn announced Thursday that it was not accepting any cruise vessels through to May 1. Cruise ship high-season in Tallinn and Estonia – Saaremaa is another significant destination – runs from late April to mid-October.

Hotels and restaurants

Hotel occupancy rates have also plummeted by up to 70 percent, it is reported.

Maarika Liivamägi, CEO of the Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association (EHRL), said the situation was now very worrying. 

"If we look at what is happening now, where external demand is completely falling and (already) has fallen, then the picture is quite serious. If nobody is on the move or visits at all, there are simply no customers," she said.

Restaurants are also hit by a fall in the numbers of people eating out.

"The bookings outlook at the moment looks to be full of cancellations...No new bookings are coming in at the moment," Liivamägi added.

As to the employment situation, Liivamägi said this was hard to forecast, adding that: "When there are no bookings or customers, you can draw your own conclusions."

The hotel sector has also approached the government for aid, with the latter saying this would be forthcoming, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

Economic affairs minister: We'll consider bank guarantees, tax hikes

Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Taavi Aas (Center) said that bank guarantees and tax hikes could be considered, in the latter case amending comments he had made to ERR on Wednesday that no tax rises would be coming.

Aas could not put a figure on how much money the state was willing to grant to help entrepreneurs, however.

"It is definitely too early to put a figure, because we do not even know how long this crisis may last," he noted.

The government declared a state of emergency Thursday evening, to last through to May 1 as things stand. All public gatherings including sports events are banned during this period, schools nationwide will be closed from Monday, and border checks will be stepped up, among other measures.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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