Group tourism in Estonia down significantly

Tourists from a calling cruise ship sightseeing in Saaremaa. June 2023.
Tourists from a calling cruise ship sightseeing in Saaremaa. June 2023. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

While the tourism sector is generally recovering after the coronavirus pandemic, rising prices are eroding Estonia's competitive advantage. According to the latest statistics, group tourism in Estonia has fallen significantly.

Estonia's tourism sector is gradually getting back to where it was before the coronavirus pandemic. According to the statistics, this June, tourism in Estonia was back at the same level as four years ago.

There have also been some notable changes when it comes to which countries tourists are traveling to Estonia from. The proportion of Estonian, Latvian, Ukrainian and Polish tourists in Estonia have all risen, while, for obvious reasons, the number of Russian tourists has decreased. However, the number of visitors from other countries, including Finland, Germany and Sweden have also fallen significantly.

"I do think it will take until 2025 to get back to 2019 levels. However, if you look at these overall figures for both Estonian and foreign tourists, there's a seven percent shortfall in terms accommodation, and another 23 percent when it comes to (just) foreign tourists," said Rainer Aavik, head of the tourism department at the Enterprise Estonia (EAS).

Just as there have been huge price increases across the economy, this is also the case in the Estonian tourism sector.

"I dare say that this will be the reality for the near future, because our economy and this uncertainty certainly does not bode well for tourism development. Certainly, the price increases are having an impact, and now, if we compare these prices we can see that the price advantage, which have had for many, many years, is starting to disappear," said Karmen Paju, tourism destination development manager for Harju, Rapla and, Lääne counties.

"For the American, German, Norwegian markets, Estonian prices are still very reasonable. But, if we are talking about German tourist groups or Finnish coach tours, then the prices have gone up a lot for them and so that certainly influences their decisions. Above all, the type of tourism we are lacking at the moment is people travelling in large groups," Aavik said.

The statistics show that Finns currently spend an impressive €1.4 million a day in Estonia, and this is making a significant contribution to Estonia's tourism sector and the economy in general.

"Our northern neighbors have been very valuable to us and are still the largest source of our foreign tourism. Estonian prices and Finnish prices are already practically getting to be at a very close level," said Paju.

But could a flight to a warm country still be cheaper than taking a holiday in Estonia?

"It's a case of comparing potatoes with potatoes and oranges with oranges. In Estonia, when it comes  to accommodation and places to eat there are options in very different price ranges. Everyone can find something that suits them," said Aavik.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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