TALLINN – According to Statistics Estonia, 120,000 domestic and 190,000 international tourists were accommodated at the accommodation establishments in Estonia in 1992, while in 2019 a record 1.54 million domestic tourists and 2.25 million foreign tourists were accommodated, which is more than ten times as many as in 1992.
The number of accommodation establishments meanwhile surged from 69 to 1,424 during the same period.
The year 2003 marked the first time ever that more than a million foreign tourists used the services of Estonian accommodation establishments during a year, while the one million mark in domestic tourism was crossed ten years later, Helga Laurmaa, analyst at Statistics Estonia, and Piret Pukk, a senior analyst, said on the blog of the statistical office.
The analysts described Estonia's accession to the European Union in 2004 as an important milestone in tourism.
"In that year, 30 percent more foreign tourists stayed at accommodation establishments than in the preceding year, and it was also then that the number of accommodation establishments began to increase significantly," they added.
Accession to the Schengen visa area in December 2007 increased the number of foreign tourists by 4 percent the following year.
Problems in the global economy had the greatest impact on the business of tourist accommodation establishments in 2009, when the number of tourists decreased by 10 percent, but from that year onwards, accommodation companies did well, according to the analysts.
"However, the exceptional year 2020 brought with it a serious turnaround and the number of international tourists fell to the 1999 levels, and there were significantly fewer domestic tourists at accommodation establishments than in several previous years," they said.
Laurmaa and Pukk pointed out that Estonia is a popular destination primarily among neighboring countries.
"When the borders opened, tourists from Finland rushed to visit the newly independent Estonia, and their interest in our country has not waned to this day," they wrote.
For instance, in 1995, slightly over 185,000 residents of Finland visited accommodation establishments here, whereas since 2004, the number of tourists from Finland has remained between 700,000 and 950,000 per year, leaving aside the coronavirus year 2020.
Over the years, Estonia has attracted greater numbers of visitors from Russia, Latvia, Sweden and Germany, in addition to tourists from Finland. Since 2006, Estonian tourists have been the top category of visitors to the country's accommodation establishments, toppling Finnish tourists from the number one spot.
The analysts observed that, on average, tourists spend two nights in Estonia and this has not changed over the years. For three decades in a row, western Estonia has boasted the biggest proportion accommodation providers, accounting for 34 percent of the total number of accommodation providers in 1993 and for 38 percent in 2020.
However, southern Estonia has now risen to second place in with 30 percent, leaving northern Estonia in third place.
At the same time, due to the larger size of accommodation establishments, the number of beds has been highest in North Estonia -- 3,963 in 1993 and 20,759 in 2020.
South and West Estonia follow in places two and three with just over 1,400 beds in each in 1993, and over 12,800 in South Estonia and over 17,400 in West Estonia in 2020, the analysts added.