Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a cosy and relaxed Baltic city with historical and cultural legacies from different eras that contrast with a vibrant and creative urban environment. A perfect destination for conferences and events with many unique and intriguing venues, the city is now trying to raise digital solutions and feed an innovative thinking to retrieve events again. We spoke to Meeli Jaaksoo, head of Tallinn Convention Bureau, for our usual heading, "Destinations Struggle Against COVID-19".
1) How is your destination containing this whole situation in order to get back on track? What are the main measures on the table?
The state and local governments are constantly keeping an eye on infection numbers and reacting accordingly. The current aim is not to rush with locking the country down, but instead creating relevant regional restrictions where necessary. The government constantly manages and updates travel restrictions with a mandatory self-isolation period. Currently, when travelling to Estonia from most countries in Europe, a 14-day isolation period is compulsory. To minimize the risk of infections, the city of Tallinn has mandated that restaurants, bars and nightlife venues cannot serve alcohol after 11pm.
2) What has been the impact for your customers and partners, such as hotels, venues or event planners, as far as you can tell?
The situation is difficult for the tourism industry. The city has always been a popular tourist destination and currently we are seeing a drop of around 80%–90% in most tourism related numbers. Many of our partners have had to lay off staff and halt activities either temporarily or permanently. The strategy now is to survive however possible and thankfully many of Tallinn Convention Bureau’s partners, hotels, events planners and venues have come up with creative ways to keep offering their services during this uncertain time. A number of hotels offer rooms as private offices or student accommodation, DMCs are already creating projects for the future, and many venues have opened virtual event studios.
3) What will be your top priority when resuming activities? What are the main targets?
The main objective of Tallinn Convention Bureau has always been to help bring international events to Tallinn and promote the city as a valued destination for conferences and business travel. Currently, our main activity towards that goal has become supporting the meetings industry in Tallinn as best as we can. We are working on a number of support measures for event organizers and our marketing strategy focuses on highlighting Tallinn’s numerous venues, hotels and service providers. This situation has shown the importance of communication and we keep our partners updated with all relevant news from the city as well as from international experts. We have also put emphasis on marketing the city through visual media by producing videos showing the different areas of the city. As many people cannot visit Tallinn in person, we are trying to give them a chance to see the city virtually.
4) How concerned are you about the crisis in international aviation and the volume of air routes to Tallinn?
Flight connections have always had a crucial impact of tourism in Tallinn. The number of direct connections to a destination obviously influences the volume of incoming tourists to the destination. The current situation is understandable and caution is key, however it is difficult to predict the larger impact this crisis will have. During the summer, we saw that as soon as some travel restrictions were lifted, most airlines jumped at the chance to resume flights. We can hope that this enthusiasm is still there when countries can once again open up. However, it is also clear that some airlines will not be able to continue running even after the current situation and this may indeed lead to less connections to Tallinn, hopefully only temporarily.
5) How do you see the future of events in Tallinn after this pandemic, especially with the advent of virtual events and hybrid meetings?
Virtual and hybrid events are definitely here to stay. During our lockdown in spring, many venues and DMCs in Tallinn began offering virtual solutions, which led to a number of innovative and successful events and lessened the need to cancel events. Virtual solutions were a part of the meetings industry even before, but the new situation created a growing demand for these services. Hybrid and virtual events will undoubtedly remain a part of the meetings industry even after the current situation. Nevertheless, we have also heard from event organizers in Estonia and abroad, that they are definitely looking forward to organizing physical events again. Human contact can never be fully replaced by virtual experiences.
Caption: Meeli Jaaksoo - Head of Tallinn Convention Bureau.
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