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Heyday for hotels

Swissôtel Tallinna müügi- ja turundusdirektor Marko Dobrus hotelli presidendisviidis. PHOTO: Martin Ilustrumm

State visit by US President Barack Obama brought benefits to hotels of Tallinn but spelled loss for shops and cafes in the «closed zone».

Though the main prize i.e. hosting the very President went to the business class Swissôtel Tallinn, guests overflowed to bulk of rivals in city centre.

«With 200–300 journalists coming to town, and 500 members of the delegation, online bookers had smaller options and the hotels with rooms to spare got their share,» said Swissôtel’s sales and marketing director Marko Dobrus.

According to Mr Dobrus, depending on the day they had 50 to 100 rooms occupied by the US delegation. The hotel has 238 rooms all in all.

As the visit came with two week warning only, the hotel market went into quite a buzz. Immediately, Swissôtel shut down all booking channels but signed an agreement that they’d give the delegation all the vacancies they have, housing the rest elsewhere.  

«It was an exciting time,» said Nordic Hotels Forum sales and marketing director Kersti Vaino, according to whom the days also featured lots of conference tourists. «Some things had to be rearranged, but at the end of the day all clients and partners realised it was an extraordinary event and there were no options.»

Honour for hotel

According to Tallink hotels sales and marketing director Svea Altjõe, the timing of the visit was excellent as the first days of the week are still relatively empty at the end of summer and the beginning of the fall. «Thanks to that, most hotels in Tallinn still had rooms available. In that sense, it fit us very well,» she said.

Though the common people weren’t even allowed into the traffic around Swissôtel, it still housed ordinary visitors who had managed to book rooms before the visit was announced. Indeed, due to the visit, they had to pass security check and their movements took more time, but Mr Dobrus said they had no negative feedback as at yesterday.

«Talking to the people, turns out it was for them a unique opportunity to be in Estonia at the same time with the US President. Thus the clients I talked to were rather pleasantly excited,» described the marketing chief.

As underlined by Mr Dobrus, the Mr Obama visit was definitely no big financial boost for the hotel as this is the peak conference season and the hotel would have been filled up anyway. While the exact bill is too early to tell, the man said it would not be the biggest they have presented.

«When we do conferences lasting for a week – with the entire house involved, and the entire conference centre, and they have ordered accommodation, lunches, dinners, coffee breaks –, then the bills have surely been bigger. So I would not say it was anything remarkable,» explained Mr Dobrus.

Givin’ it all

With many an important guest and visit under its belt, Swissôtel still counts the US President the cream of the crop says Mr Dobrus. «It’s still an honour for a hotel, as well as for the country. It outweighs many things,» he said.

Even so, Mr Dobrus said the hotel did not do anything out of the ordinary. «Did not build any Potemkin Village. The hotel was functioning as usual, just with the extra attention. A premium hotel cannot be run like we fix it for today and then continue business as usual,» said he.

Still, the staff surely tried their absolute topmost best, said Mr Dobrus.

Block runs «dry»

While the hoteliers were blessed by the US President present, companies within the closed area around Swissôtel and in its vicinity had either to close doors on Wednesday or lose a measure of turnover. Many have even asked the police about recompenses, but nobody has gotten a penny.

According to Margit Härma, keeping a cafe in Tornimäe Business Centre – right next to Swissôtel –, the lost revenue was her contribution into the Obama visit. «As an entrepreneur, I obviously resent having to close doors, but as an Estonian I was fully satisfied with it all,» said she.

According to Ms Härma, the visit started to scare people off the city centre on Tuesday already and the revenue drop was felt in all of her city centre cafes. «Folks kept away from city centre like a plague outbreak area,» she diagnosed.

Asking for compensation has never once entered the head of Ms Härma, and yesterday the cafe was again swinging in its usual rhythm. «It’s not like after some natural disaster, or a fire. Everybody knew that Obama comes and Obama goes,» added the lady.