TALLINN - The Viru Hotel, the landmark Tallinn establishment that became a part of the Finnish Sokos hotel chain in September, recently opened the doors to its new conference center and restaurant, and plans to rebuild the hotel's dreary facade are proceeding, managers say.
In addition, construction of the large shopping complex next door by Pontos, the local subsidiary of the Finnish construction company SRV, is continuing and should soon be completed.
According to the new director of Viru Hotel, Markku Tarnanen, some 70 stores will be opened in the new mall, while the hotel itself will have 90 new rooms on top of the existing 400 once renovations are finished.
Hospitality industry experts say the need for conference services in Estonia is expected to grow after the country joins the EU next May.
Viru Hotel will attempt to meet this growing demand by shifting its focus to business travelers in the near future, Turnanan said.
At present, some 65 percent of the guests at the hotel are tourists, and Finns account for 80 percent of all Viru Hotel guests.
Although competition is becoming tighter, Tarnanen believes Viru Hotel can increase its market share to 25 percent next year.
Viru Hotel employees - numbering around 250 - are all Estonian with the exception of two Finns. Curiously, at the end of the Soviet era the staff of the hotel's restaurant alone numbered close to 1,000, managers say.
The Sokos hotel chain acquired the operations of Viru Hotel for a period of 10 years, and the contract includes an option for a further five years. Based on the experiences from running Viru, SOK will consider whether or not to expand its hotel operations in the Baltic country.
Currently all of Tallinn's largest hotels are in foreign hands. The city's second largest hotel, the Olumpia, is owned by a Norwegian company.
This year, all of Tallinn's hotels felt the affects of Finland's long winter, which pushed the start of the catamaran and hydrofoil traffic-season late into the spring.