Ida-Viru County spas hoping to replace Russian tourists with Finns

A spa in Narva-Jõesuu, Ida-Viru County.
A spa in Narva-Jõesuu, Ida-Viru County. Source: ERR

Spas in Ida-Viru County are hoping to attract Finnish tourists after Russian tourists were banned by the Estonian government earlier this year. Companies are also offering new services to attract the domestic market.

Spas and hotels in Ida-Viru County, Estonia's most easterly region, have experienced a tough few years.

Entry restrictions from both Russia and Estonia during the coronavirus pandemic saw the usual stream of tourists dry to a trickle. Domestic tourism has helped fill the gap.

But now rising energy prices and demands for higher wages are creating more difficulties.

Venues are trying to tempt Estonian tourists to the region during the winter and Christmas holidays, Thursday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.

"The disappearance of the Russian customer at the turn of the year does not affect us at all. The issue is quite different," Karina Küppas, manager of Narva-Jõesuu SPA & Sanatorium, told AK.

The beach at Narva-Jõesuu. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

"The question is: how do Estonians behave? Now, what we are clearly seeing now is that people are coming for a vacation, but at a cheaper price, and no one has a clear understanding at the moment of what the future will bring."

Companies are also trying to offer new experiences to customers.

Mäetagus von Rosen SPA is styling itself as Estonia's first "adults only" hotel. It believes this pivot has been successful and its occupancy rate was 65 percent in October.

"All our [Estonia's] hotels are focused on families with children and there are really no differences. Then you have a decreasing number of clients, they are spread out between all the spas in Estonia and they all have worse results. This is not sustainable," said Mäetagus von Rosen's Terje Rattur.

The Ida-Viru tourism cluster believes domestic tourism is also recovering, although its annual report is not completed yet. It is hoped in the long term, Finnish tourists will replace the Russians.

Russian tourists arriving in Tallinn by train. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

"In four years' time, the majority of tourists will come from Finland," said Ida-Viru tourism coordinator Kadri Jalonen.

She said, in the past, Finns accounted for 5 percent of the region's visitors and Russians 26 percent. In four years' time, she expects Finns to account for between 10 and 15 percent of all visitors.

Before Russia launched its full-scale war in Ukraine in February, approximately 10,000 Finnish tourists visited Ida-Viru County each year.

Estonia stopped issuing Russian tourist visas earlier this year and imposed a ban on those entering with visa issued by other EU member states in September.

Data from September shows few foreign tourists ventured to Ida-Viru County, instead preferring Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu. The county's share of domestic tourism was 10 percent.

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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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