Held in the intimate wood-panelled atmosphere of the Estonian Embassy in leafy Kensington, our Destination Dialogue Estonia tackled pre-conceptions and the practicalities of selling the destination. The event was hosted by Selling Short Breaks & Holidays as part of its We're Backing Agents campaign and suppliers attending included Mary Stuart-Miller, UK director of the Estonia Tourist Board; Oksana Skorbatjuk, also of the Estonia Tourist Board; Maret Põldveer from the Tallinn Tourist Office; Elena Natale, representing Tallinn capital of Culture 2011; and Aino Lepik von Wirén, the Estonian Ambassador to London.
ESTONIA IN CONTEXT
This tiny Baltic state is best known for its capital – the medieval walled city of Tallinn. With a past reputation for cheap stag dos, Tallinn seems to have moved on from this and is the proud co-host of the 2011 Capital of Culture. This January, in the year Estonia celebrates 20 years of Soviet independence, it has attracted 34 per cent more British and Irish visitors. With the UK already as the fifth largest source market, Estonia is hoping visitors will stay to appreciate more than just Tallinn.
- Some people think Estonia only has Tallinn to offer – make people realise there’s more for second or third-timers – like the city of Tartu, two hours by train from Tallinn
- With a reputation for city breaks, Estonia is dismissed when it comes to traditional summer holidays - but with 1500 islands and a relatively large coastline, Estonia has many beaches and lots of outdoor activities on offer
- People think of Estonia as Eastern Europe, meaning people may have low expectations in terms of accommodation. In fact, many cultural aspects are more akin to Scandinavia – including its luxury properties and quality service
- Have any of your clients visited Tallinn on a whistlestop cruise tour? They may like to know what they missed, and what else the country has to offer
- 2011 is THE year to be booking trips to Tallinn. The buzz created by its Capital of Culture status and the extensive events calendar, particularly over the summer, means there’s something for everyone
- Self-drive is a great option for Estonia. The country is compact and roads easy to navigate. In less than three hours, your clients could drive from Tallinn to the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa
- Estonia is perfectly placed for a twin-centre. Tallinn is just 50 miles from Helsink and a two-hour ferry crossing. Or try a Baltic States tour incorporating Latvia and Lithuania. St Petersberg is close too
- Got a client that likes Spas? The famous therapeutic mud of cute coastal town Happsalu is just one choice and prices are a lot lower than other European countries
- For romantics who want to get away from it all, the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa are a step back in time. Padaste Manor on Muhu is a very high-end boutique hotel, with fine dining, a spa and even a private cottage for total isolation Guardian Article
- For clients that have booked Christmas markets trips to Germany or Scandinavia why not suggest Tallinn’s Christmas market? It’s smaller and more manageable, the beautifully handmade crafts on offer are more authentic than some more popular markets, and almost guaranteed snow makes a magical setting
From March 27 this year, Estonian Air increased its flight schedule between Tallinn and London Gatwick to four flights a week. Flights from Tallinn to London will be operated on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Ryan Air has new direct flights from Dublin, Edinburgh, Luton and East Midlands.
easyjet are adding a new flight from Liverpool to Tallinn from April 26, supplementing an existing Stansted route.
Estonia is a surprising little country with year-round appeal. Beautiful and culturally rich Tallinn is a great starting point for clients who may have tried Prague, Budapest or Stockholm, but don’t forget to up-sell and suggest they fit more in. Whether it’s another city, a beach extension or a spa break in the country, remember you can pack a lot into a trip to Estonia, and what’s on offer changes from season-to-season.
Sell Estonia using superlatives:
“Estonia is the most meteor-cratered country on earth – which has provided some dramatic landscapes. It is also one of the most bio-diverse migratory bird stops in the Baltic region and has Europe’s fifth largest lake, separating it from Russia. Estonians are some of the most prolific mobile phone owners in the world, Skype was invented here and Estonians do everything digitally, including voting.”
Mary Stuart-Miller, UK Director, Estonian Tourist Office
ESTONIA - FAST FACTS
Size: About the same size as Denmark, Estonia has a long coastline and 1500 islands
Average length of stay: Two-three nights. But recommend four to fit two cities in, or a week to add islands or beaches.
Top destinations: Tallinn and the university city of Tartu make a great twin city break, whilst Summer capital Parnu has miles of golden sandy beaches, and the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa are a romantic rural retreat.
The food: A cross between Eastern European and Scandinavian. Lots of hearty pork dishes, black bread and cured fish. Main cities offer world cuisine too. Dining ranges from chic bistros to medieval-themed banquets. Estonians pride themselves on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
When to go: Summer this far north brings lovely light evenings and sunny weather topping in the 30s – the perfect conditions for al fresco city dinners, spending time on the beach or appreciating the beautiful green countryside. But winter puts a whole different perspective on the country, with sports like cross country skiing and dog sledding on offer.
Flying times: Around three hours from London to Tallinn.
Average Costs: Estonia has been tagged to the Euro for some time and in January went across the currency officially.
Nightlife/Entertainment: Tallinn has a lively nightlife, from fun family-friendly restaurants like the medieval-themed Olde Hansa, to local bars and nightclubs. Tartu too, is a university city with a young, thriving nightlife. Tallinn’s Capital of Culture status means the city is hosting over 7000 events, including music festivals.
Accommodation choices: Tallinn has many luxury boutique hotels like the 14th century Merchant’s House or Schlössle Hotel. Apartments are also available. Those on a budget will find hostels in the cities and guest houses and camping outside.