Estonia's tourism sector is forecasting a bleak winter for businesses reliant on foreign tourists as numbers have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
On Tuesday, data from Statistics Estonia showed the number of domestic tourists staying at accommodation establishments has increased.
Jaan Ratnik, head of Tervise Spa and Tervise Paradiis, told ETV's "Aktuaalne Kaamera" (AK) on Tuesday confirmed the trend.
"The domestic customer set a very high record in September last year and in the summer months - 30-35 percent [growth] - and this year we have essentially repeated the result. Which means it is stronger than 2019," she said.
But the Bank of Estonia said the same trend cannot be observed for foreign tourists and there has been a 75 percent reduction compared to before the pandemic.
The bank said foreign tourists spent €135 million euros in Estonia in the third quarter of 2021, which is €340 million less than in 2019.
Estonia's largest hotel, the legendary Viru Hotell in Tallinn, currently has a 50 percent occupancy rate. Sari Sopanen, CEO of Sokos Hotel Viru, said the number of customers is driven by the coronavirus infection rate.
"When the infection rate has gone up, we can see guests are careful [...] Foreigners are a little afraid to come here today," Sopanen told AK.
Feliks Mägus, owner and manager of the Nordic Hotel Forum in Tallin, said the hotel will be half full in November but it is likely to be empty in December.
"There have been a lot of cancellations in the second half of November, [and] in December. Large groups related to conferences or other events have mostly canceled and there are very, very few traditional Christmas parties. We are very worried," Mägus said.
He said there is more hope for next season. "If the infection curve falls and we reduce the restrictions, then the tourists will come back," he said.
Editor: Helen Wright