Economic affairs ministry submits bill to streamline accommodation sector

The hotels and accommodation sector is getting a shake-up, with e-registration replacing paper, should a new bill pass (picture is illustrative).
The hotels and accommodation sector is getting a shake-up, with e-registration replacing paper, should a new bill pass (picture is illustrative). Source: Google Street View

A bill aimed at modernizing the accommodation sector in Estonia has been finalized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Baltic News Service reports.

The bill will codify exactly what an accommodation establishment is, removing potential blurred lines between it and the rentals sector, BNS reports.

It will also make less stringent requirements surrounding food provision, issuing Michelin-style stars, but will also make "non-personalized" data available on a "one stop" basis to authorities and law enforcement agencies, according to BNS.

If it comes into force, the law will make these changes effective from 2021.

Economic affairs minister Taavi Aas (Centre) said the reforms would bring the sector up-to-date.

"The requirements imposed for the provision of accommodation services must keep up with the times," Aas said, according to BNS.

"The legislative framework must support enterprise, and requirements and red tape have to be reduced where they are not directly necessary, or where self-regulation works well," the minister added.

An "accommodation service" is defined as short term bed and board up to a maximum of three months, under the bill, more clearly separating it from the rentals sector.

Another requirement to be lifted, should the bill pass a vote at the Riigikogu and become law, is the mandatory provision of food at an accommodation establishment. This will be optional, under the new bill, BNS reports.

Additionally, awarding Michelin-style stars to accommodation establishments will no longer require the approval of the economic affairs ministry. Awarding stars will remain optional, it is reported.

e-registration to replace paper

He bill will also facilitate digital-only registration of guests, which should make processes speedier, and improve security, it is argued.

"The registration of guests and the forwarding of data on paper as we have today will be replaced by digital [systems], and paperwork will become history," said Kristi Talving, deputy secretary general for the internal market at the economic affairs ministry, according to BNS.

This data, or at least its "non-personalized" aspects, will also be available on a "one stop" basis to agencies like Enterprise Estonia and Statistics Estonia, meaning that hotels, hostels, guest houses etc. will not need to duplicate processes in re-sending the same data to those agencies, who use them for compiling statistics.

Enterprise Estonia says it will develop an online app within the framework of the tourist information system, which should facilitate compliance with the new digital data requirements, according to BNS.

The e-registration amends will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, BNS reports, with the other changes in effect from the previous May.

Peak tourist time is naturally in the summer; the number of tourists staying overnight for at least one night in Estonia increased by a reported 4 percent in July 2019 compared with the same period in 2018, with the number of Finnish tourists visiting the country seeing a 9 percent rise year-on-year to August this year. Tourism to Estonia's easternmost county, Ida-Viru County, rose by 6 percent year-on-year (y-o-y), according to Statistics Estonia.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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