Major events support tourism in Tartu County

Tourism in Tartu is recovering after the stagnation of the years of crisis. This is supported by various major events, including the World Logging Championships.

Annika Ojasaar, Head of Tourism at Tartu County Tourism Foundation, confirmed that tourism in Tartu is looking up, as the numbers confirm. For example, the number of overnight tourists in Tartu increased by 27% in 2022 compared to the previous year. In terms of numbers, a total of 254,367 visitors stayed in the accommodation establishments of Tartu, incl. 170,438 from Estonia and 83,929 from abroad. The average length of stay in Tartu was 1.5 nights and the occupancy rate was around 57%. However, the level of 2019 has not yet been reached.

“It is a huge challenge for us and other regions of Estonia to attract foreign tourists out of the capital city. Last year, only 6% of all international tourists who visited Estonia came to Tartu. Considering our actual capacities and number of beds, we could accommodate many more guests. One of our goals is to increase the percentage to at least 10% by the end of 2024, the European Capital of Culture year,” said Ojasaar.

Angela Järg, the Sales and Marketing Manager at Dorpat Hotel and Restaurant, also highlighted the complicated situation of the recent years, which did not end with the Covid-19 crisis. “Then came the crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, which made it possible to recruit staff for simpler jobs from among the Ukrainians who had arrived here, but people from Western Europe, not to mention from more distant countries, no longer dared to travel to the Baltics because of Russia’s proximity. The bookings were cancelled,” Järg described the situation.

Now the foreigners’ initial fears are subsiding, and tourist flows from Finland and Western Europe are recovering. “It is not a drastic change, rather slower than expected, but still positive. The number of Latvian tourists is also increasing. Luckily, the share of business travellers is gradually picking up again, and people already have the courage to visit Estonia. While in the last few years, tourists booked accommodation just 2–3 days before the event they wanted to visit, now people are making longer-term plans,” said Järg.

Both experts point out the positive impact of events on tourism in Tartu as a whole. Especially international events, such as the World Logging Championships. “These events help place Tartu more firmly on the world map and bring it to people’s awareness,” said Annika Ojasaar.

Angela Järg added that events in Tartu and its immediate surroundings also increase the number of hotel bookings. “Early booking is particularly important before large-scale events such as the Rural Fair or Rally Estonia because hotels are usually sold out by the time of the events. We hope that event organisers will cooperate even more in the future to spread the events throughout the year,” said Järg.

Events also have a direct impact on local businesses. Tourists who arrive in Tartu stay overnight, go to restaurants and cafés, and, if they have free time, visit various museums and attractions.

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