CITY PROMO: Move over, Paris: Tallinn is the city of romance

  • 2008-08-20
  • By Staff Writer

It is a competitive business. Not only are tourism board competing with their neighbors they're competing with other cities in other parts of Europe, and the world.
In the current economic climate tourism is one of the first things to suffer. It is a luxury after all. Still tourism boards are fighting back with a raft of clever measures to woe customs to the region.
Tallinn has its romantic side. Riga, some would say unfortunately, is promoted as a party town. Next year Vilnius is the European Capital of Culture and in 2011 it is Tallinn's turn.
Each Baltic capital has its own charm. Riga has its baroque architecture and Tallinn its medieval feel. But let's not forget the smaller cities. This week's Industry Insider is about city promotion.

TALLINN - "What people don't realize it that Paris is quite dirty," said Amanda Caldwell when asked why she picked Tallinn for her honeymoon.
Caldwell was here in March, and luckily for her, it snowed.
"When it's snowing I think it's the most romantic city I have ever been in," she said.
Prague is full of more drunken idiots than Riga, and Paris and Venice are swamped by an army of tourists.
Tallinn is quietly moving into a role that suits it best. The chocolate-box city is becoming the European destination of choice for those in the know, honeymooners, couples and anyone looking for a little romance in their holidays.

The Tallinn city tourism board doesn't keep figures for the exact number of people who come for romantic getaways, but they have noticed a trend in that direction, as well as a trend toward cultural tourism.
"It's getting more popular with couples. It's a pretty place to come for anybody. It's a good place for a honeymoon," said Piret Tuzova of the Tallinn city tourism office.

The transition has been subtle. Ten years ago, Tallinn didn't figure as a holiday destination at all, promoting itself as "medieval and wired" without being quite sure what type of visitor that would attract.
Later, The New York Times celebrated it as a party town despite its small number of big clubs. Unlike Riga or Prague, Tallinn has not caught on as a stag destination after the hotels, bars, and clubs made it quite clear that stag parties are unwelcome.

Tallinn has arguably the best-preserved Old Town in Northern Europe, but it also has other features that people discover when they come here.
"Paris and Vienna, they build fake beaches, but we have [a] natural beach," said Tuzova.
Tallinn's small size also works in its favor.
"In London you have to take the tube to get somewhere. In London there are a lot of romantic places as well, but [it's] not as compact as Tallinn," Caldwell said.
"There is no single place is Tallinn which is humongous. Tallinn has a lot of boutique bars and little alleyways where you can get lost," Caldwell said.

Caldwell describes her time in the hotel as magical.
"We had roses on the bed, toilet paper with bride and groom and breakfast till four in the evening. We were waited on hand and foot," she said.
The people who sell the city to tourists have pulled out all the stops for those who want a cultural or romantic tour. They are simply prepared to go that extra mile.

Discount City cards are everywhere in Europe, and the idea came from Scandinavia, but the Tallinncard gives the visitor the chance to see the whole town, visit sites and use public transport with a 100 percent discount.
"I think we have done well. We now have 100,000 visitors 's most of them are first time visitors, and the most popular card is the 48-hour card," Tuzova said.

Tallinncard is also the only card in Europe that offers a six-hour card for cruise tours.
Take another example. A couple on romantic holidays should expect champagne in bed and maybe roses, but at a top boutique hotel in Tallinn you can expect your own piano player (or violin, if you prefer), medieval style rooms with a fireplace and bathtub, embroidered toilet paper, and even a hand-written congratulations note from the hotel's owner.

Despite all this attention to detail, the front manager at Three Sisters Hotel insists that it is the city itself that makes it good for honeymooners.
"Tallinn is quiet calm and private and the sea makes it romantic. It is not very crowded," Mari Maasik said.
The city still has its quirks, Tuzova said, and almost everyone who comes to Tallinn wants to sight-see, but not necessarily where you might expect.  Despite the city's reputation as a medieval town, the most popular attraction was Television Tower, until it closed down.

"People like towers. A lot of people like to look at the city from up [high]," Tuzova said. "It's a part of our history and a good example of Soviet architecture."
By targeting couples, Tallinn is hoping to buck the trend that tourism is facing in the economic downturn.
Caldwell puts it best: "Tallinn brings out the romance in anybody. My husband is not romantic at all, but he was singing to me in the snow," she said.