At the business gala in the Estonia Concert Hall, organized by the Enterprise Estonia (EAS), the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EKTK) and the Estonian Employers Confederation (ETK), last year’s best were honored in order to share the state’s highest recognition to the most successful companies in Estonia and to raise business awareness. Companies with the highest benefit in four areas most important to the state were identified during the competition. In the category of Tourism Innovator, three nominees competed for the title: the Estonian History Museum’s Great Guild Hall, the Vihula Manor and the Science Centre AHHAA. The Vihula Manor was honored with the title of Tourism Innovator 2012.

“It’s a great honor to earn such a high recognition from the state,” said Michael Stenner, Board Member of the Vihula Manor. “The 16th century Vihula manor complex located in the Lahemaa National Park has developed into one of the largest resorts in the Baltic States that offers extensive leisure facilities to very different client groups. Along with the renovation of the manor complex, we have created lots of new jobs and enhanced regional cooperation. We comply with the principles of environmental sustainability in our daily activities and also contribute to the promotion of activi-ties related to nature and the local cultural heritage.“

Within 4 years, the Unique Hotels Group, together with the EAS and partners, has invested over 15 million euros in the development of the Vihula manor complex. As the manor complex is very large and its different parts are planned to be sufficiently unbundled, the manor can offer high-quality visitor experience to very different customer segments. “Our guests expect interesting cultural and natural experience as well as entertainment and high-level services from their vacation. For 10 months a year, our main clients are the organizers of conferences and seminars. Estonians are still important customers, but the Vihula Manor’s reputation is also increasingly growing in foreign markets, the share of foreign tourists showing a steady stable and positive growth trend. Of international markets, we prioritize Finland and Russia while the German and Latvian market are also important to us,” Michael Stenner added.

The main criteria for the evaluation of the category of Tourism Innovator of the year are the innovativeness of tourism products and thereby the offering of added value to Estonia as a tourism destination, the compliance with the princi-ples of cooperation and sustainable tourism, as well as the using of the elements of Estonian cultural heritage, ethnic traditions and way of life in cooperation with local population and enterprises. Also international competitiveness of a tourism product and environmentally sound management are evaluated.