Thirsty Finns helped Tallink break the record

Finns buying alcohol in Tallinn.

PHOTO: Tairo Lutter

While the number of Tallink passengers has been declining recently, July saw the record number of all times and the amount of alcohol purchased aboard the ferries has also skyrocketed after the reduction of the alcohol excise tax. It seems that the Finns are once more buying booze aboard the boats and on dry ground after the prices have been lowered.

“The number of purchases shows a definite increase. Passengers also buy goods aboard the ships. Such increase has been apparent since July 1,” said Paavo Nõgene, board chairman of Tallink Grupp. The number of Tallink passengers increased 1.2 percent in July year over year and reached 1.24 million, which is also the highest ever monthly figure.

Nõgene would not say whether this is a temporary shift or a longer trend. “First, it is too early to say, secondly, it would also be rather complicated – July is anyway the month of most active travel. Whether the number of passengers will increase in the other periods can be estimated after August, September and October have passed,” the Tallink CEO said. He added that many tourists from other regions, Asia, Central and Southern Europe are traveling in July; therefore it would be hasty to base estimates on July’s figures alone.

The number of passengers went up on all routes in July. It increased 1.3 percent within a year on the Estonia-Finland route and reached 641,484 individuals. The number of passengers on the Estonia-Sweden route increased by 1.3 percent as well, amounting to 380,233. Besides the record overall number of passenger, Tallink saw another monthly passenger record on the Estonia-Sweden route, where the number of passengers increased by 0.8 percent, to 119,398 people, and on the Latvia-Sweden route, where the annual increase was also 0.8 percent and reached 97,756 passengers.

SuperAlko, which operates the port shops, has also observed a sudden increase in sales. “The alcohol shops of SuperAlko, Cityalko and Viinarannasta C&C in Estonia have seen a significant leap in turnover in the beginning of July as compared with July 2018,” said SuperAlko representative Riho Maurer as early as in July.

As suitable for Monday, only a dozen cars could be seen in the Tallinn passenger port SuperAlko parking lot, yet shopping was active. Mervi from Finland said that while she does not buy alcohol in Estonia very often, she saves a lot of money shopping here. Matti, who was lifting beer crates and other goods in his van with the help of two companions, also said that he can save some 50 percent by shopping in Estonia. “We come here approximately seven times per year,” he said and pointed out that he buys in the city shops rather than on the ferry.

Alcohol sales in local grocery shops have shot up as well. Postimees wrote in late July that the consumers are mainly buying hard liquor, in particular the cheap vodka, the sale of which has increased in some cases by a quarter. It is hardly surprising, since the reduction of excise tax since July 1 also amounted to 25 percent.

Minister of Finance Martin Helme also said last week that the reduction of the excise tax on alcohol had resulted in the increase of sales at the northern border, meaning that the Finnish tourists are again buying more booze. Helme told the government news conference that the initial figures are quite encouraging and that the government’s tax change seems like achieving its goals. But he admitted that it would be better to wait until next week when July’s tax data will become available and that September would show a longer trend. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas also said that it would be too hasty to base conclusions on a single month. He further stressed that Estonia would not engage in an excise race and that one should keep an eye on the amount of alcohol consumed.