TALLINN - Estonian and international businessmen were unanimous in the opinion that Tallinn is in desperate need of a large-capacity conference center to meet the demands of the lucrative convention travel market. The city's largest-ever conference 's the Junior Chamber International European Conference, held June 14 - 17 's exposed serious shortcomings in the capacity to handle big events. An estimated 2,500 business leaders flew into Tallinn for the event, creating a logistical nightmare.
Resources were stretched so thin that organizers had to pay to stitch extra tablecloths and import tableware from Finland for the gala dinner, as there were not enough basic catering supplies in the country to host such a large crowd.
With no single venue large enough, the conference had to be spread between ballrooms and function centers in various hotels across the city.
The JCI conference director Ardo Reinsalu said it was in Tallinn's best interest to build a larger facility. "The infrastructure of Estonia does not support conferences with delegates exceeding 1,500 people, as there is no center big enough to hold this number of people," Reinsalu said.
"Conferences are not coming here because they cannot. People want to come and explore Tallinn. There is big potential for Tallinn as a conference city, but not without a good center."
Junior Chamber International is a network of business leaders who meet to undertake professional development courses. Ironically, the theme of the conference was "Anything Is Possible" 's a phrase that did not ring true in Tallinn's case.
"It's difficult to imagine, but nobody had enough tablecloths or even tables for our gala dinner. We have to pay more to bring knives, forks and plates from elsewhere. Usually you pay less per person if you order more. In our case, we are paying more to have more people."
Tallinn International Airport was also tested to the limit. With an influx of several thousand people, extra staff had to be employed to cope with the demand.
Also, the conference started just one day after the record-breaking Metallica concert in Tallinn, which saw an estimated 30,000 international visitors flood the city.
With its own budget of 10 million kroons, the conference also injected an estimated 30 million kroons into the local economy through, Reinsalu said.
Tallinn City Tourist Office and Convention Bureau marketing manager Meeli Jaaksoo said there were three privately-funded building projects currently being mooted.
"This is our main task 's it is absolutely 100 percent needed," Jaaksoo said.
"All over the world, in every capital, you can find these social multifunction centers, used for conferences, for gatherings and for show business. A good example is the Metallica concert. We need a place to hold these kinds of concerts in wintertime as well."
She said the city's Convention Bureau often had to turn away interested conference organizers. "We do miss out, and it would bring a lot of money to the city to have these events here," she said.
She predicted any of the three private conference center bids 's which have not yet been made public 's would take until at least 2010 to be constructed.