According to Tarmo Mutso, Director of the Estonian Tourist Board, the jury, consisting of experts in tourism and cultural heritage, based their decision on various aspects. "In selecting the best historical tourist destination, we turned special attention to the authenticity of the area and the tourism products, assessed the sustainability of the destination and its consistency in developing services and products," Tarmo Mutso explained. He added that customer orientation, product quality and community involvement were also important characteristics that could not be ignored. "We also considered the openness of the destinations to different forms of cooperation, since that is the key to the success of a tourism enterprise, enabling an increase in the quality of products and services through the exchange of knowledge and experience," Mutso noted. He assured that all participants were winners in their own way, since the competition allowed for valuable feedback to be received, regarding goods and services, from the experts in these fields.
According to Kadi Elmeste, Sales and Marketing Manager of Sagadi manor, winning this competition is great recognition of the joint efforts by the manors of Palmse, Sagadi and Vihula, and it will certainly provide motivation to further intensify cooperation between the manors. "Participation in this competition gave us another good reason for planning new marketing activities and initiating cooperation projects, in order to gain a reputation on mainly international markets, since many foreign tourists have not discovered us yet," Elmeste said. "Local tourists also have a lot to discover, due to construction and renovation works carried out in the manors of Palmse, Sagadi and Vihula in recent years, as well as successful product development," Elmeste noted.
According to Tarmo Bachmann, General Manager of Vihula Manor, the advantage of Lahemaa manors is their close proximity – all three manors are located within a 15 km radius. "We suggest combining all three manors when visiting Lahemaa, because each manor has a different experience to offer. Sagadi is perfect for a nature vacation; Vihula is good for relaxation; and Palmse enables a wide range of cultural events to be enjoyed," Tarmo Bachmann explained.
The Lahemaa manors have a joint account on Facebook – www.facebook.com/lahemaamanors – providing information on holiday opportunities in the area and enabling one to share photos and experiences from Lahemaa. One lucky poster of photos will receive a luxurious holiday package at the end of May.
In total, 9 candidates applied for the competition "Hidden Treasures of Estonia 2011. Tourism and Regeneration of physical sites", from which five destinations were selected for the semi-final by the committee of tourism and cultural heritage experts: Kõpu, Ristna and Tahkuna lighthouses (Hiiumaa Tourism Association), Jaani Quarter (Tartu County Tourism Foundation), Vihula manor - three beautiful Lahemaa manors (non-profit association Lääne-Viru County Tourism), Mooste manor (Põlvamaa Development Centre) and Olustvere manor (Olustvere School of Service and Rural Economics).
The competition "Hidden Treasures of Estonia 2011 Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites", organised by the Estonian Tourist Board of Enterprise Estonia, is related to the project "European Tourist Destinations of Excellence" (EDEN) initiated by the European Commission five years ago. This is the fourth time that Estonia is participating. Last year, the title was awarded to Võrtsjärv Foundation; in 2009, to Soomaa National Park; and in 2008, to the town of Viljandi.
The competition is supported by the European Commission and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.