Russian tourists a boon for Estonia
The number of Russian tourists visiting neighbouring Estonia has rocketed by 48 percent this year, giving the slump-struck Baltic state some economic cheer, data showed Friday.
Tarmo Mutso, head of Estonia's tourist board, told AFP that numbers had jumped sharply over the first five months of this year.
"It's remarkable," he said.
"It's mainly fueled by three factors -- interest among Russians in visiting Estonian luxury spa-hotels, which are generally much cheaper than those in Russia, plus joint PR campaigns in Russia by the Estonian state and the Estonian tourism sector, and improved transport links between Estonia and Russia."
Estonia's tourist sector has been slashing prices in the face of a deep economic crisis.
The Baltic nation of 1.3 million has also run a major advertising campaign in Russia since its often-rocky relations with its Soviet-era master took a slide in 2007.
The overall number of tourists who visited Estonia and stayed at least one night in a hotel during the first five months of 2010 was 491,000, up by 14 percent on the same period a year ago.
Half of them came from Finland, which is just 80 kilometres (50 miles) across the Baltic Sea from Estonia.
"The number of Russians among them was 54,211, over three times higher than in 2004," Mutso said.
"The Estonian tourism sector has done relatively well during the recession and is also recovering well," he added.
© 2010 AFP