The coronavirus infection rate in Estonia increasing to a point where Finland would impose a quarantine requirement would be the worst possible scenario for Estonian tourism, CEO of Tallink Grupp Paavo Nõgene told ERR on Monday.
Finland has set restrictions on arrival for travelers coming from countries where the rate of infection is higher than eight new cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days. In compared Estonia and many other European countries require people to quarantine when they come from a country which has 16 new cases or more per 100,000 inhabitants.
Estonia has so far been exempt from this regulation by its northern neighbor, with the limit raised to 10 cases per 100,000 residents.
Over the last two weeks, Estonia's new case rate has risen close to nine, with 8.9 announced on August 24 by the Health Board (Terviseamet).
Paavo Nõgene, CEO of Tallink Grupp, told ERR a quarantine requirement would be the worst possible scenario to hit Estonian tourism, considering what the sector has already experienced in the spring.
Nõgene said: "In Tallinn, our fine competitors, and many travel agencies, have made plans on the assumption that from spring Sweden would be open at one point. Many tourists can be brought to Estonia from there. Making those plans was complicated enough and affected many employees. The situation, where we are looking at Finland setting a quarantine requirement, is the worst possible scenario for Estonian tourism. It would take sectors connected to tourism into a stable coma."
He added: "Finns are the most important tourists for Estonia. Finnish tourists have created and maintained a large proportion of [Estonian] people employeed in tourism. Tourists coming from other countries are at present zero in any case. Latvians cannot hold up our tourism, and there is no one arriving via planes either."
Nõgene noted that shipping lines have seen large-scale cancellations and a fall in ticket sales over the last few weeks.
Nõgene explained: "The reason being confusing communication from Finland on whether it is reasonable to travel to Estonia or not. Finland's official recommendation of not traveling to Estonia and an obligation to quarantine after returning from Estonia creates two choices for the sector: the state either intervenes quickly and creates a working and reasonable wage compensation measure or the sector must compensate by taking the number of employers down to the demand. The same discussions are currently happening in the governments of Finland and Sweden."
He reiterated the Estonian tourism sector makes up 7 percent of GDP, which is why he finds it sensible to keep the sector working to reinvigorate the economy.
Nõgene added: "Otherwise we are giving a competitive advantage to our neighboring countries for next spring-summer."
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte