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Editorial: the untold and untapped treasures of tourism

Tallinna vanalinna jõuluturul puidust päkapikke müüva Kerly Kõrgesaare sõnul on konkurents turistidele kauba müümisel küll tihe, kuid ostjaid jätkub siiski kõigile. PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

Holidays and the change of year mean impressive amounts of tourists in our midst, helped along by extra trains and additional buses. This is reason to rejoice for local tourism companies and all who have laboured to make Estonia known. Recent articles in international media praising Estonia as the Undiscovered Pearl of Europe and a wondersome spot to spend Christmas/New Year surely helped a lot.

Ever since 2008, numbers of outside tourists have been on a brisk increase, more than doubling over the period – holiday-tally wise. During the past couple of years, visitor interest from Russia has skyrocketed: while two years ago 200,000 plus came over from Russia, this year’s predictions point to a figure bigger by a half.

Clearly, a jump like this came not overnight, being the fruit of long years of sweat and toil. For that, our joy ought to be sincere. Knowing that we’re not talking mere economic gain (though impressive – as estimated, Russian tourists drop hundreds of million euros into Estonia, yearly); at least as important will be the warmer relations with neighbours – never built by politics alone.

Despite the money gained and the satisfaction sensed by tourism sector, resting on laurels ought definitely to be avoided. In international tourism, competition is tough. Estonia, thus far praised by excellent language skills shown by service sector, is beginning to lose out. While those in their 30ies still manage, more-or-less, in Russian and not English/Finnish alone, amongst the younger ones the former is largely avoided. Which is a pity: the tongue would grant quite a competitive edge. Beholding the trouble taken by Finland, Latvia and Lithuania to draw the Russian tourist, we cannot do less.

Surely, though, there are other factors that serve to attract: friendliness, the feeling of security, that «special something». Encouragingly, the foreign tourist is discovering other places except for Tallinn, venturing into the countryside. Perhaps, we do have more to offer than we have dared to believe. Even so, the potential will only be realised with excellent tourism-level cooperation between the state and regions. In the end, everybody wins.