In 2019, foreign tourism set a new record for the fourth and domestic tourism for the seventh consecutive year in the Estonian tourism sector. “The Estonian tourism sector achieved record-breaking results in all areas: number of foreign and domestic tourists, number of overnight stays, and tourism revenue. Tourism has an increasingly significant effect on all Estonian economic indicators, among other things, export and investments, employment and regional development,” Director of the Estonian Tourist Board of Enterprise Estonia Margus Sameli said. The number of overnight stays of foreign tourists reached a new record high for the fourth and the number of overnight stays of domestic tourists for the seventh consecutive year. Given the contributions of foreign residents to Estonian travel transportation companies, the export of tourism services to be revealed in March is expected to reach 2.06 billion euros.
“Revenue from foreign tourism in Estonia is exceptional compared to other European countries, amounting to nearly 1,400 dollars per capita according to the World Tourism Organization, meaning that we are at the forefront alongside Sweden among the Nordic and Baltic countries and exceed the level of many European countries, including France and Italy,” Sameli said. The growth of foreign tourism can be attributed to the rise of interest in almost all markets, although 60% of overnight stays are related to four main countries, i.e. Finland, Russia, Latvia, and Germany. “It shows that we must maintain the diversity of the countries that visit us to increase export revenue. In doing so, we must also focus on repeated visits from the main countries, as the absolute numbers are so high that other visits could never compensate for such absence,” Sameli explained.
He believes that 2019 can be largely referred to as the year of Finland in terms of tourism marketing. “Enterprise Estonia employed a communication manager and a business client relations manager for the Finnish market, we also organised a Finnish-themed roundtable of the absolute best in the tourism sector and carried out numerous marketing projects with destinations in Estonia. As a result, the number of overnight stays by Finns, which had fallen as much as two-digit percentage points at the end of 2018, started to grow in the second half of 2019. Such growth cannot be explained by mere shopping tourism, as the number of overnight stays in more expensive hotels increased rapidly as well, and this is not strictly necessary for such tourism considering Finland’s proximity and excellent transport connections.”
In addition to regular marketing and communication activities, Sameli also highlighted the contribution of the entire tourism sector to increasing the reasons for travelling: new or renovated hotels emerged in Tallinn, Fotografiska that is highly valued among Finns was opened, several attractions were launched, and the Estonian Song Celebration and the Metallica concert also attracted the interest of foreign visitors in the summertime. “Domestic tourism and travelling with a smaller footprint in general are becoming increasingly popular in Finland and Estonia will prevail if Finns see us as an expanded opportunity for domestic tourism.”
In total numbers, the number of overnight stays outside Tallinn grew almost as much (95,000) as in Tallinn (106,000). “The Estonian Tourist Board aims to also introduce various other Estonian regions besides Tallinn. First-time visitors mostly visit Tallinn, whereas the development and introduction of various Estonian regions is crucial for repeated visits,” Sameli said.
In addition to overnight stays at accommodation establishments, rental accommodation also grew significantly among visitors. While in 2017, rental accommodation added 7–8% to Airbnb accommodation alone, the same figure for 2018 was 11–12% and already 14–15% last year. The addition of rental spaces is all the more logical considering that the streets and accommodation establishments in Tallinn Old Town are full of foreign tourists during peak season.
“Our business tourism marketing has also achieved exceptional results: Estonia was visited by nearly 60,000 conference delegates, which is 10% more than in 2018, however, we are still losing tens of conferences every year and an estimated revenue of 20 million euros due to the lack of suitable large conference spaces,” Sameli said.
This year, the Estonian Tourist Board will focus on the strategic development of destinations based on the visitor, not the administrative division of Estonia. “Tourists do not travel by county, as they are more interested in unique destinations and a logical visitor journey,” Sameli commented. According to him, there are three areas where Estonian destinations are the strongest. These are food, pure nature, and authentic local culture. “In only a few months, Estonia will be put on the world map as a food country thanks to the international culinary competition Bocuse d’Or Europe to be held in Tallinn,” Sameli gave an example. “Flight connections also need to be further promoted, as tourists travelling by plane to Estonia spend twice as much per trip than those who visit Estonia by land.”
In 2019, Estonian accommodation establishments accommodated 3.8 million tourists, 2.3 million of whom were foreign tourists and 1.5 million domestic tourists. The total number of tourists grew by 5.5% in comparison with 2018. The total number of nights spent here amounted to 7 million, including 4.4 million nights by foreign tourists and 2.6 million by domestic tourists. The total number of nights spent here grew by 5% in comparison with 2018, including an increase of 5% in the accommodation of foreign tourists and 6% in the accommodation domestic tourists. In conclusion, overnight stays in accommodation establishments increased in terms of nearly all destination markets this year: Latvia exhibited the biggest growth (+14%), followed by Germany (+11%), United Kingdom (+12%), Russia (+4%), Sweden (+9%), Norway (+7%), and Lithuania (+24%). The only large market to exhibit a decrease in accommodation was Finland (-1.8%) and in terms of less significant markets, Italy and Spain (-13% and -6%, respectively). The latter figures were due to military rotation for Italy and the football game for Spain in 2018. Japan exhibited a slight decrease in 2019 as well (-1%).
Summary video of last year in tourism:
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