Record year in tourism last year

Helga Laurmaa

2017 was a record year in world tourism. More foreign tourists visited Estonia than in any of the previous years. 3.5 million domestic and foreign tourists stayed in Estonian accommodation establishments. There were 7% more tourists in accommodation establishments than a year earlier, including 9% more domestic tourists and 5% more foreign tourists. Of those staying in accommodation establishments, by country of residence, the number of Estonian residents increased the most, and of foreign tourists, more tourists arrived from Russia and Latvia. The total number of domestic and foreign tourists who stayed in accommodation establishments set a new record already for the eighth consecutive year.

According to the data of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 1.3 billion overnight trips were made in the world in 2017. The number of foreign travels increased by 83 million, or 7%. The number of overnight trips increased the most in Europe – by more than 8%, amounting to 671 million. More trips were made also to other world regions, which in total resulted in a record growth in the world.

According to the data of Eesti Pank (central bank of Estonia), Estonia’s revenue from tourism (tourism services exports) was 1.9 billion euros, of which 1.4 billion euros was spent by foreign tourists in Estonia, to which payments made by residents of foreign countries to Estonian transport enterprises were added. Revenue from inbound tourism increased compared to the previous year by 10%.

In 2017, more than 6 million foreign tourists visited Estonia, i.e. 3% more than in 2016. Nearly a half of foreign tourists stayed for only a day in Estonia. Compared to 2016, the number of same-day visitors as well as the number of overnight visitors increased. 35% of all those who visited Estonia used the services of accommodation establishments. The rest of the tourists stayed in Estonia for only a day, were accommodated by relatives or friends or had found some other overnight accommodation.

Accommodated tourists, 2008–2017

3.5 million tourists stayed in Estonian accommodation establishments in 2017. This was 7% more than in 2016. Tourists spent a total of 6.5 million nights in Estonian accommodation establishments. The number of nights spent in accommodation establishments increased by 5% year on year. A year-on-year increase occurred also in the accommodation establishments of our neighbouring countries, increasing by 17% in Finland, 12% in Latvia and 5% in Lithuania.

The first time that the number of foreign visitors in Estonian accommodation establishments exceeded two million was in 2016. In 2017, 2.2 million foreign tourists stayed in Estonian accommodation establishments – 5% more than the year before. In total, foreign tourists spent more than 4 million nights in Estonian accommodation establishments, which is also a record result. One of the targets set in the Estonian National Tourism Development Plan 2014–2020 is that by 2020, foreign tourists spend 5 million nights in accommodation establishments. In 2018–2020, the number of overnight stays should increase by a fifth. In 2017, the number of nights spent in accommodation establishments by foreign tourists increased by 3%. More foreign tourists spend their nights in Estonian accommodation establishments than domestic tourists. In 2017, nights spent by foreign tourists accounted for 64% of the total number of overnight stays. This result is similar to that of Latvia (69%). In Finland, however, foreign tourists account for a much smaller share of nights spent (31%). In the EU, overnight visits of foreign tourists amount to an average of 49% of the total number of overnight stays, which means that there are slightly more domestic tourists than foreign tourists staying in accommodation establishments. The reasons for the trips of foreign tourists staying in Estonian accommodation establishments have been stable in recent years: slightly more than 70% of foreign tourists are on a holiday and a fifth are on a business trip. In the summer months, there are more of those who are on a holiday trip, but outside the tourist season, the share of those on a business trip increases as the number of those on a holiday trip decreases.

The main tourism partners for Estonia are the neighbouring countries. The three most important tourism partners are Finland, Russia and Latvia. 1.3 million accommodated tourists came from these countries. Estonia has for years been the most popular travel destination for Finns. According to Statistics Finland, 1.7 million overnight trips were made by Finnish residents to Estonia in 2017, which accounted for more than a fifth of all overnight trips made by Finnish residents abroad. In 2017, the number of overnight trips made by Finnish tourists to Estonia decreased by 3%. In 2016, Finland’s economic outlook was more modest and, therefore, the share of trips taken by Finnish residents to the neighbouring countries increased. In 2017, the share of trips to more distant countries increased again. After domestic tourists, Finnish tourists continue to be the most numerous group of customers in Estonian accommodation establishments. In 2017, 42% of accommodated foreign tourists came from Finland. In 2017, a total of 916,000 Finnish tourists stayed overnight in Estonian accommodation establishments, where they spent 1.7 million nights. Both the number of Finnish tourists and the number of nights spent by them in Estonia decreased by 4% compared to the record level in 2016. The number of accommodated Finnish tourists increased in February, March and April and decreased in the remaining months.

The number of tourists from Russia has been fluctuating over the past decade – there have been significant increases as well as decreases. In 2015, the number of accommodated Russian tourists was a third smaller than the year before, but in the second half of 2016, the number of tourists started to increase again, and a large number of Russian tourists stayed in the accommodation establishments also in 2017. 239,000 Russian tourists stayed in Estonian accommodation establishments, i.e. nearly a fifth more than the year before. Compared to the record year of 2013, in terms of the number of visitors from Russia, 66,000 fewer Russian tourists were accommodated. Their share in the total number of accommodated foreign tourists was 11%, which is significantly less than in the record year (16%). They spent in Estonia 483,000 nights, which is 17% more than in 2016, but more than a third less than in 2013.

The third largest partner country for Estonian accommodation establishments is Latvia. The number of Latvian tourists has increased for many years. 7%, or 161,000 of the accommodated foreign tourists came from Latvia in 2017 – 14% more than in 2016. Both the number of tourists from Latvia and the number of nights spent by them (244, 000) set new records for the seventh consecutive year. For tourists from Latvia, there are attractive goods available in Estonia within a convenient driving distance. In terms of the number of tourists using Estonian accommodation establishments, Latvia was behind Sweden and Germany only a few years ago, but since 2015, the three neighbouring countries – Finland, Russia and Latvia – have been the main partner countries for accommodation establishments, accounting for 61% of the accommodated foreign tourists.

Germany and Scandinavian countries are also important tourism partners for Estonia. The share of German tourists in the total number of foreign tourists was 6%. The number of accommodated German tourists was 126,000 – as much as the year before. A total of 125,000 tourists came from Sweden, Norway and Denmark, constituting 6% of the total number of foreign tourists who used the services of Estonian accommodation establishments. Compared to 2016, less tourists arrived from Sweden and Norway, but the number of tourists from Denmark increased. Transport connections are very important in tourism and may affect the neighbouring countries; also competition is fierce. A ship added on the Riga–Stockholm route brought about an increase in the number of passengers on the route and affected the increase in the number of overnight stays by Swedish tourists in Latvian accommodation establishments. At the same time, the number of overnight stays by Swedish tourists in Estonian accommodation establishments decreased.

The number of tourists from Asian countries increased rapidly. 20,000 tourists arrived from China – a fifth more than in 2016. In 2017, tourists from Japan in accommodation establishments numbered 28,000. Estonian accommodation establishments have also benefited from the direct flights between Helsinki and Tokyo that started operating in the summer of 2013. There are three times more Japanese tourists staying in Estonian accommodation establishments than five years ago.

Domestic tourism continues to grow. 39% of the customers of accommodation establishments were domestic tourists. One of the targets set in the Estonian National Tourism Development Plan 2014–2020 is that Estonian residents choose to spend their holidays in Estonia, thus having a positive impact on the Estonian economy. In the past eight years, the number of domestic tourists and the number of nights spent by them in accommodation establishments have consistently increased. The new record is 1.4 million Estonian residents who used accommodation services, i.e. everyone living in Estonia stayed in an accommodation establishment more than once a year. Domestic tourists spent a total of 2.4 million nights in accommodation establishments, which means that each day there were on average 6,500 Estonian residents using the services of accommodation establishments. The number of domestic tourists increased by 9% compared to 2016, while the number of nights spent increased by 7%. This means that compared to the previous year, they spent somewhat less time on a domestic trip. The number of nights spent set as a target for 2020 in the tourism development plan was reached already in 2016.

In 2017, there were 1,500 accommodation establishments in Estonia, with 25,000 rooms and 62,000 bed places. There were 700 more rooms and 2,000 more bed places available for visitors compared to 2016. 21,000 rooms with 48,000 bed places were available all year round. Most of the rooms (67%) were double rooms. In 292 accommodation establishments, there were rooms available for people with limited mobility. More than 10,000 people were employed in accommodation establishments in Estonia in 2017. The revenue from the sales of accommodation services increased for the sixth consecutive year. In 2017, it amounted to 245 million euros – 12% more than a year earlier. As the revenue from the sales of accommodation services grew more than the number of nights spent in accommodation establishments, tourists had to pay on average 3 euros more per night than the year before – 38 euros.