TALLINN - Economic Affairs Minister Juhan Parts approved a 500 million kroon (32 million euro) program to promote tourism in Estonia, which has seen an approximate 8 percent drop in foreign guests so far this year, mainly as a result of the April riots in Tallinn. Parts said that funds for the tourism development program would nearly double through 2007 - 2013. "Building a good reputation of Estonia as a tourist destination and raising awareness throughout the world will increase demand for Estonian products and services, not just in tourism products," the minister said.
About 10 percent of the funds, or 45 million kroons, will go toward creating an electronic tourist information system, the ministry said. The system will serve people planning trips to the Baltic state as well as those already in the country.
The ministry and tourism industry representatives hope an electronic system would increase Estonia's attractiveness for tourists and bolster the country's reputation as an interesting destination.
Estonia will also modernize the state tourist information portal (www.visitestonia.com) and create a single standard for tourist information data and a real-time administration environment that will function on a common basis.
The programs will be carried out by Enterprise Estonia, a state-financed foundation for promoting the country, in cooperation with local governments, travel agencies and tour operators.
In all, some 1.2 billion kroons will be channeled into the development of tourism in the current structural funds period in the years 2007 - 2013, the ministry said.
Estonia ranked 28th in a tourism competitiveness index compiled by the World Economic Forum earlier this year, below Sweden and Finland but ahead of Latvia and Lithuania.
Estonia earned 1 billion euros from inbound tourism in 2006, up 9 percent year-on-year, or 10 percent of the country's total exports, the Estonian Tourism Board announced in September.