While Estonia's two-day Midsummer holiday is next week already, tickets are still available to the ferry to Saaremaa. Ferry operator TS Laevad nonetheless recommends not leaving buying tickets to the last minute.
According to ticket sales via praamid.ee, demand for ferry tickets from the mainland to Saaremaa on the Monday ahead of Midsummer isn't high. TS Laevad service director Ave Metsla warned, however, that no major conclusions can yet be drawn based on this.
"A quirk of this route is that as it offers many departures, people traveling to the island don't book their tickets far ahead of time; instead, they tend to plan their ticket purchases for right before they travel," Metsla said. "But in terms of passenger numbers, if we look at the first weeks of June, then these volumes have grown nicely."
She did admit, however, that ticket sales have nonetheless been down somewhat on year.
While sufficient tickets are currently still available to Saaremaa ahead of Midsummer, the TS Laevad official nonetheless recommended booking ahead if possible.
"A lot of departures are already sold out beginning midday on June 24," she said. "Regarding last year, while people could travel to the island over a period of several days, everyone's return often falls on the same date, i.e. the 24th. The 25th came as a relatively big surprise last year, when the line to the ferry on the Kuivastu side was backed up through the Pädaste intersection."
According to Visit Saaremaa tourism specialist Kristin Mägi, the ferries' current low load factors may also be due to the fact that no big, public Midsummer bonfire events have been advertised. She also noted that foreign tourist numbers are currently still affected by the fact that people are unsure whether or not the island is open to visitors.
"Estonians know that they can come and that everything is open and functioning, but it is Latvia and Lithuania from where a lot of questions have come recently," Mägi said. "They have heard that there are uncertain times and that the island had been closed and have inquired regarding what the current situation is like: whether hotels are open for business, whether they can eat at restaurants, whether ferries are operating."
The Visit Saaremaa representative noted that mainlanders showed a lot of support for Saaremaa during the emergency situation, noting that there were many people who had not originally planned to visit the island this summer, but following the crisis promised to visit after all in order to support the local economy.
"This likely won't cover the numbers that won't come," she said. "Some businesses may reach the point by fall that they have to close down their business. Several accommodation establishments have said that if they reach 50 percent of last year's results, then they would already be pleased."
Editor: Aili Vahtla