In 2021, Estonian residents took 575,000 overnight trips abroad, up 3 percent on year, and nearly 2.3 million domestic overnight trips, up 6 percent on year. Last year, Estonians spent a total of more than €495 million on international trips and €402 million on domestic trips, Statistics Estonia said on Tuesday.
With the increase in the number of trips, the total expenditures on trips grew by €98 million. Compared with the pre-pandemic year of 2019, however, Estonian residents' spending on travel was down by nearly €980 million, Statistics Estonia said in a press release.
According to Epp Remmelg, analyst at Statistics Estonia, traveling increased at the end of the second quarter of 2021, however trips made abroad last year still totaled only one third of the number of foreign trips made in 2019.
"The number of overnight trips abroad increased the most in the fourth quarter — by four and a half times compared with the fourth quarter of 2020," Remmelg noted.
COVID-related restrictions imposed by various countries also had a strong impact on travel destinations during the past two years.
"In 2020, 58 percent of trips were made to nearby countries, while last year, the number of trips to nearby countries fell due to strict restrictions," she explained. "Trips to nearby countries accounted for just 42 percent of all trips."
Of trips abroad, 58 percent were vacations, 16 percent were trips made to visit friends and family, and 24 percent were business trips. The average duration of an overnight trip abroad was eight nights.
"Restrictions caused a decrease in the number of short trips," Remmelg noted. "If people traveled, they tended to take a longer trip. The average duration was the longest for trips made to Russia at 12 nights, and the shortest for trips made to Latvia and Lithuania at two nights."
Estonian residents spent an average of €862 per person on overnight trips abroad and €177 per person on domestic overnight trips. Compared with 2020, the average cost over overnight domestic trips increased more than the average cost of overnight trips abroad. The average cost of overnight leisure travel stood at €213.
Nature of domestic travel has changed
The Statistics Estonia analyst noted that people's reasons for travel have changed over time as well.
"Five years ago, the main purpose of these trips was to visit friends and family, whereas now the primary purpose is vacation and recreation," Remmelg said.
The number of domestic vacation trips increased by 156,000 and totaled 1.4 million, on par with 2017 numbers.
Pärnu County, including the coastal city of Pärnu, remains the most popular destination for overnight trips, with 357,000 trips made there in 2021. More than 300,000 trips were also taken to Tartu County, including Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city.
"Compared with 2019, before the pandemic, there were about two times fewer trips made to Harju County and Tallinn," the analyst said. "This can be explained by the significant drop in the number of business trips and by the restrictions on access to cultural and entertainment establishments."
Saare County saw the smallest decrease in the number of domestic tourists in 2021. Last year, Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island, was visited by nearly 241,000 Estonian residents, which is only 10 percent fewer than in 2019.
The higher share of vacation trips has led to an increase in the share of nights spent in paid accommodations in recent years. In 2017, domestic tourists utilized rented accommodations for just one third of trips; in 2021, this share was almost equal to the share of nights spent in non-rented accommodations.
Editor: Aili Vahtla