Tourism industry and the bridge to Finland

Increasingly frequent travel both abroad and in Estonia are another indicator of Estonians’ improved economic situation. In 1992 Estonian travel agents sent 46 000 people abroad, the corresponding figure for 2001 was 264 000. The most popular tourist destination is Finland, followed by Sweden, CIS countries and the other Baltic States. Travelling to other parts of the world is not as rare as it used to be. In 2001 the number of people who used domestic tourism services was 149 000. Estonians’ favourite spots at home were in southern and western Estonia, while foreigners stayed mostly at hotels in Tallinn.

In 2001 there were 400 establishments providing accommodation, with 18 000 beds. In addition to more formal hotels in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu, more remote motels and tourism farms have also found a market. In addition to conventional services, fishing and hunting tourism are also offered. Health resorts and spas, located mostly in western and northern Estonia, are predominantly populated by foreigners – prices charged at such establishments are relatively high in comparison with local wages.

If we compare the number of Estonians who visit Finland with that of Finns coming to Estonia, we can see that the latter number exceeds the former by many times. According to statistical data, 3.23 million foreigners visited Estonia in 2001 – that is more than twice the population of Estonia. Approximately four fifths of these visitors were from Finland. The majority of these Finns are one-day tourists drawn here by the lower prices of goods and services.

The distance between the capital cities Tallinn and Helsinki is 80 kilometres and many shipping companies have based their business on ferry transport between them, earning a part of their profits from tax-free trade. In 2002 there were 14 passenger ships sailing between Tallinn and Helsinki, carrying 5.2 million passengers. Finnish tourists not only contribute to the income of Tallinn hotels but also to that of taxi drivers, bars and pubs located in the city centre and in the Old Town, shopping centres and vendors of alcoholic beverages. Traders of pirated goods and prostitutes operating unofficially make their contribution to services provided to tourists as well.

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