Estonia targets Finnish families for driving holidays as borders open

The Estonian Government says Finns are welcome to visit - but the Finnish Government is still advising residents not to take any foreign leisure trips for the time being.

Aerial view of Tallinn Old Town / Credit: iStock

The Estonian Government says Finnish residents – and anyone else who’s spent two weeks in Finland prior to travel – are welcome to visit the country for tourism as well as business from Monday 1st June.

That Estonia is welcoming Finns for day trips, weekend getaways or a good old fashioned booze cruise stands somewhat at odds with the Finnish government which still advises residents to “avoid unnecessary recreational travel abroad.”

It’s a message which could change this week as Foreign MinisterĀ Pekka Haavisto (Green) pushes the government to drop this advice, which is anyway being overtaken by events with other EU countries opening up once again to foreign visitors, including Finns.

Ferry companies have increased their crossings and Visit Estonia is looking to Finnish travelers to spend some time in the country.

Finns make about about a third of all foreign tourists in Estonia each year but in 2020 with the coronavirus crisis that number has been reduced to almost zero over the last few months.

“Our best guess is by the end of June accommodation in hotels and hostels and those Airbnb which have registered themselves as official businesses, the statistics could be approximately 30% of normal capacity for Finnish tourists” says Timo Raussi from Visit Estonia.

“By the end of July it could be up to 50% of normal and in August something like 65%, two thirds of normal Finnish capacity” he explains.

File picture of Tallink Star ferry / Credit: Tallink

Luring tourists from the north

Estonian tourism authorities are counting on the relative ease of travel and proximity to tempt Finns who might want to venture out of their homeland this summer.

“I’m quite sure Finns are still afraid to fly. It’s inconvenient. You have to sit on a plane tightly packed and wear a mask for two, three, four hours to get to southern Europe. So airborne travel is inconvenient” Raussi tellsĀ News Now Finland.

The ideal Finnish traveler would be coming over on a ferry with their car, would tour the country beyond Tallinn – 70% of Finnish visitors to Estonia have never been outside the capital – and help boost the country’s tourist economy.

“Our concern is if Finns come in big numbers it can still spread the virus on ferries, so we are aiming all our marketing activities at people who come in their own cars and in caravans” Timo Raussi explains, noting that ‘choke points’ for foot passengers potentially spreading coronavirus, where they are crowded together, including inside the Tallinn ferry terminals where border guards are checking passports.

“If the majority of passengers are coming with their own cars we feel more secure” he adds.

Although there are social distancing measures in place on cross-Baltic ferries limiting sailings to 50% of normal capacity, there are still up to a dozen departures each day, bringing 1,000 to 1,200 people per ship.

“Finns are not travelling to Russia, they are not traveling to Sweden but Estonia is safe for a summer holiday.”