Nostalgia brings Russians to Tallinn for New Year's Eve

  • 2005-11-23
  • By Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - The city of Tallinn and Enterprise Estonia's advertisement campaigns, plastered across metro stations and kiosks in St. Petersburg and Moscow, could bring up to 25,000 Russian tourists to Estonia for New Year's celebrations - 25 percent more than last year.
"Russian tourists like to spend their New Year's Eve in Estonia, going to Tallinn shops and restaurants. Some also want to visit the countryside," said Asko Valdmann, board member at Taluday Resorts.

Eduard Kohlhof, director of Livonia Tours, said it was mainly the nouveau riche from Moscow who enjoy celebrating the New Year in Estonia.

As a result, local Russian pop singers are in big demand at various hotels. But event organizers forget that Russians also want to see their president's speech broadcast from TV that night, he said.

"Most of the Russian tourists have been here before. They come for the nostalgia," Kohlhof said. "We don't have as many of them as we could because they're afraid we won't speak Russian to them and that we're nationalistic."

Since train and flight routes between Tallinn and Moscow were booked within days, transportation companies have come up with additional services. Go Rail will add wagons to its trains, and Taluday Resorts, in cooperation with Estonian Air, will add new flights to the Tallinn - Moscow route.

"At the year's end we work at full capacity. The tickets on sale in mid-November went fast," said Mihail Rutenberg, sales manager at rail company Go Rail. "Russian travel operators have ordered two charter wagons from us for an additional 2000 passengers on Dec. 31."

The company initially planned to offer a special train connection between Tallinn and St. Petersburg for New Year's Eve, but later cancelled the idea. A regular route will be opened in May.

There are currently no direct flights, train connections or ferry routes to St Petersburg. The distance is only a few hundred kilometers and people use cars and buses to get to Tallinn from St. Petersburg. However, according to Eurolines, some bus tickets are still available.

Several Tallinn hotels offer their New Years Eve programs on the city website in Russian. The capital promotes itself with the slogan "Winter fairytale in Old Tallinn," while Enterprise Estonia uses a less seasonal slogan, "Warm Nordic welcome," to invite people to spas and city holiday resorts, said Ruta Rannala, an Enterprise Estonia representative in St. Petersburg. At the end of the year, additional employees will be hired at the Estonian consulate to meet the growing demand for visas, she said.

Although Rannala couldn't give the exact amount spent on Enterprise Estonia's promotion, she said that Tallinn managed a good campaign with a fairly low budget.

The city spent 550,000 kroons (35,000 euros) for advertisements in the press, on Web sites, the metro and the streets.

Last year, 63,000 Russian tourists visited Tallinn, one-third of whom came in December and January, thus inspiring the capital to direct its winter campaign toward Russian tourists, although more tourists arrive from Finland, Sweden and Ger-many