Russian tourists are no longer coming to Ida-Viru County after sanctions put an end to card payments. Companies' only hope is to bet on local tourism.
While Russian tourists still reached the Narva-Jõesuu Medical Spa & Resort a week ago, despite the war in Ukraine, new sanctions have now done away with tourism in eastern Estonia.
"The flow of tourists virtually stopped from March 12 when it was no longer possible to pay by card. We still see a few customers here and there, but generally speaking, we can say that Russian tourism has stopped, at least here," executive manager Karina Küppas said.
Three years ago, people coming from Russia counted for a little over one-fifth of total tourism. The coronavirus pandemic delivered a blow to cross-border tourism, while a rapid recovery was expected after the virus recedes. The war in Ukraine has postponed that hope for years.
"Russian tourism is over, we can no longer count on it. The times are too hectic right now, and things will become clearer depending on whether the war will end sooner rather than later. But the next three to five years are a given, meaning that the tourism cluster will have to change its plans," said Kadri Jalonen, tourism coordinator for the county.
Ida-Viru County will try to attract Finnish tourists to make up for losing Russia, while this won't be easy.
"Our region is so far east and so close to the border to leave tourists hesitant, meaning that Estonian tourism will have to count on Estonian tourists for another summer," Jalonen said.
Karina Küppas said that the spa stopped counting on the Russian market for serious revenue already back in 2014. "The fact people still came during the coronavirus pandemic was great, but now it is gone again. Our view is that entrepreneurs who bet on Russian tourism recovering miscalculated," she said.
Küppas added that Ida-Viru County spas have more serious problems than Russian tourists disappearing, such as sky-high energy prices.
Editor: Marcus Turovski