Foreign tourism slowly picking up in Estonia

Tourists travelling in Estonia
Tourists travelling in Estonia Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Foreign tourists have started to rediscover Estonia with the reopening of borders after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. Tourists from Latvia were first to visit Estonia but Finns have also been able to visit since June 15 with the amount of daily passengers reaching 10,000 over the holidays.

ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Sunday while a year ago, 70 percent of visitors in Pärnu's Viiking Spa Hotel were Finns, the largest percentage of visitors are now domestic tourists, followed by Latvians.

Rita, a Latvian tourist, told AK: "We should travel more in Estonia and the Baltics in general. There's such beautiful nature here and great service. There are slight differences in our cultures and they are fun to discover."

After borders were opened between Finland and Estonia on June 15, more tourists have visited Estonia.

Kairi Lusik, Viiking Spa Hotel director, said: "Finns are slowly, slowly returning to our city. In our hotel as well, it is mostly younger Finns who come to visit the beach and enjoy great food and accommodation. Our regular visitors, older Finns, have never traveled much in the summer, rather in the fall and so we hope that we will meet our regular customers again in the fall."

The occupancy of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Tallinn is a little more than 20 percent, which is about four times less than a year ago but is still better than nothing. Most of the visitors are Finns.

Vitali Makejev, Radisson Blu Sky hotel manager, said: "We saw significant growth in the first weekend, on June 19-21, but that was also related to there being a day off in Finland."

However, Makejev believes the situation in Tallinn is better than in Riga: "I had an experience lately where I went to Riga and I would say the position of Tallinn's hotels is much better than hotels in Riga. Many more hotels are still closed there. If we were to draw a parallel within our chain, all four of our hotels are open in Tallinn, but only two of the seven in Riga are open currently."

Tallinn City Government has also seen an increase in tourists returning which can be seen by sales of Tallinn Cards, which allows users to visit museums and attractions at a discounted rate.

Data from the City Enterprise Department shows the cards are being used again after barely any usage was registered during the emergency situation from mid-March to mid-May.

A spokesperson for the city government told ERR News: "Due to the emergency situation, the sale of Tallinn Cards was at a standstill for 60 days of the first half of the year (182 days in total). That is about 30% timewise.

"From the beginning of the year up until the emergency situation (January 1 – March 12), 2,244 Tallinn Cards were sold and 12,297 visits with the Tallinn Card were registered. February 2020 had the biggest sales numbers for all the past Februaries so far. 

"From the end of the emergency situation until now (May 12 - June 28), 221 Tallinn Cards were sold and 968 visits registered. For comparison – in 2019, 23,857 Tallinn Cards were sold and 127,966 visits registered."

Tallinn is also currently directing its tourism marketing campaigns at Finland, Latvia and Lithuania and is organizing trips for travel media and bloggers.

Ferry company Tallink said the daily number of passengers on the company's Tallinn-Helsinki route have increased from about 300 passengers to 3,000 in mid-May when borders were reopened to commuters. The bigger increase happened in mid-July when borders were reopened for tourism. On June 18, 19, and 21, the number of passengers each day reached 10,000.

Speaking about traveling to Estonia, Irene, a Finnish tourist, told AK: "Life is full of danger. Hygiene regulations are followed well here, there is hand sanitizer everywhere, distance is being kept and it is great to be here when there are not too many people visiting."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Helen Wright

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