A safe tourism campaign to encourage tourists to visit Estonia is not in the works, the EAS and KredeEx foundation has said. There has been a wave of cancelations in the region since Russia invaded Ukraine.
"We are not planning a campaign that specifically emphasizes security, our research has shown that overemphasizing this also creates a difficult situation because the question arises as to why it needs to be emphasized separately," foundation spokesperson Martin Altraja said.
Instead, Estonia's positive traits will be emphasized in upcoming campaigns. "We are organizing more media and product tours here than before, bringing in foreign journalists and letting them experience the security situation for themselves," he said.
Enterprise Estonia management board member Sigrid Harjo told ERR data from the Tourism Development Center shows very few bookings from Germany have been made since the war started in February.
Tourists from further abroad have also been put off by visiting, Liina Maria Lepik head of the foundation's development center said. "The main effects can be seen in package tours and cruises," she noted.
She also pointed out many Baltic cruises will be canceled as it is no longer possible to visit St Petersburg.
The German market has been the most sensitive and this is a problem as the Baltics are a popular tourist destination with tour operators, Lepik added. "But we must not forget that the consumer of package tours is mainly older and more conservative."
Enterprise Estonia has explained to tour operators that Tallinn is as far from Kyiv as Berlin.
"We emphasize that if we give up traveling to each other only because of fear and prejudice, we are essentially sanctioning each other," Lepik said.
"But we can keep Estonia in the picture with positive news, such as the expansion of Michelin's restaurant guide to Estonia or the opening of the Radisson Collection 5* hotel in May. These and many events and other positive news help alleviate fear and show that Estonia is doing well," she said.
Last week, Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock visited the Baltic region and even went on a "walkabout" in Riga's Old Town to show the country was safe.
"Let me be very clear here now. Security is always a question of trust. One has to be visible on the ground. I address myself to the German listeners, the German audience, and hope there are quite a few of them here. The Baltic states are a beautiful place where you can spend your holidays over Pentecost, over the summer season, it is always a worthwhile visit," she said.
Focusing on new markets
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Enterprise Estonia stopped cooperating with the Russian market immediately and has now turned its attention to new markets.
"In general, tourists from our neighboring countries, especially Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, adequately assess the situation and neighboring countries are still a priority for us. The first signals give hope that the Finn is on the move again, and in the first months of the year, for example, Latvian tourists set an all-time record of visits, which also exceeded the best record of 2019," she said.
Lepik said tourism from Spain, France and Central Europe has also increased.
She said the foundation has started to change its campaigns and the two-year Coronavirus pandemic has made the organization more flexible and responsive.
"As soon as one of the target markets opens up, we will start marketing vigorously there, but we must also be ready to apply the brakes quickly or change plans," she said.
One example she gave was Isreal, which the organization started to target with digital advertising when the country lifted travel restrictions.
Tallink: Number of passengers is growing
Tallink's head of communications Katri Link said the company has seen more passengers this year than in the same period last year.
"The figures for the first quarter show that since the easing of restrictions in our neighboring countries and the decline in the Omicron strain, our passenger numbers have started to rise," she said, saying the firm remains optimistic for a fast recovery.
She said passenger ships are once again between Helsinki and Tallinn.
Editor: Helen Wright