INTRO 1: How would you describe your destination if you could only use two to three words?
Medieval, compact, vibrant.
INTRO 2: Which destination do you believe is your biggest competition?
We know that meeting planners are considering other alternatives to Tallinn, such as Riga, Vilnius and Helsinki. Also, New European cities such as Prague, Budapest and Ljubljana have a similar vibe and could be seen as competitors.
INTRO 3: Which destination is an inspiring role model to you?
We look to other successful small-to-medium-sized European cities as role models for urban development and tourism, such as Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Ljubljana, Salzburg, and Reykjavik. They are remarkable examples and offer valuable lessons for Tallinn in balancing tourism with the preservation of cultural heritage, sustainable development, and creating a high quality of life for residents.
Q1: How do you see the recognition among the top ten meeting destinations evaluated according to the Meeting Experience Index?
For us, it is a quality stamp of approval and feedback that Tallinn is on the right track. We are fully aware that the acknowledgement is first and foremost due to our amazing venues and organizers but also our flight connections and achievements on the sustainability front play a definite part in our success in the Meeting Experience Index ranking. We hope to continue on the same path and keep improving our destination as a whole.
Q2: What sets your destination apart from your competition, and what will ensure you have a competitive edge in the future?
Tallinn has a unique combination of medieval charm and modern innovation that sets us apart from other destinations. This combination of old and new creates a unique atmosphere in the city that appeals to a wide range of visitors and event organizers. The city is compact in size and very walkable. In addition, the free public transport offered by the city for conference delegates makes it easy to get around and is a plus for meeting planners. Tallinn is committed to sustainability, and it has been recognized as one of the world’s leading eco-friendly destinations – we are the European Green Capital 2023.
One of our focus areas will remain sustainability as it becomes an increasingly important factor for everyone – travellers and locals alike. We will continue to promote sustainable tourism by investing in eco-friendly infrastructure, encouraging responsible tourism practices, and promoting sustainable experiences.
But other areas that will ensure our success as a destination are accessibility and digital infrastructure, as these services will continuously need improvement to meet the ever-changing needs of people using them. Also, innovation, so that Tallinn remains the birthplace of creative technologies and an attractive hub for start-ups. Additionally, the city will continue to invest in and promote cultural and creative industries to attract visitors who are interested in unique experiences.
Q3: We live in uncertain times; in the past two years, we have learned how to battle the crisis caused by the corona crisis and face the economic crisis caused by the war. How does your destination cope in such challenging times?
As our prime minister Kaja Kallas has said, the current times can be summarized as a “cluster crisis”, since the recent years have been like a perfect storm of unfortunate events.
But through Estonian history, we have endured a lot of difficulties and unexpected situations, which has helped to foster a sense of solidarity and resilience. As a result, the Estonians have a strong sense of community, with citizens and businesses supporting each other during challenging times. Through it all, we have shown adaptability by quickly implementing new policies and measures to address challenges. Tallinn has also collaborated with other cities and regions to share best practices and resources during challenging times, as the city is part of different international organizations such as EUROCITIES, Intelligent Community Forum etc. We have and will continue to improve our ability to diversify the economy and develop new industries such as tech start-ups, creative industries, and tourism.
Q4: How do you foresee the future of the meetings industry in the next decade? What topics must the industry address immediately?
As concerns about climate change continue to grow, I believe sustainability will continue to become even more integral within the meetings industry (and every other aspect of our day-to-day lives). The needed change could include the use of eco-friendly venues and materials, as well as the reduction of travel and carbon emissions. The former, along with the ever-emerging new technologies, means that the hybrid/virtual event trend is likely to continue in the next decade, as it offers increased flexibility and accessibility for attendees. As technology continues to evolve, augmented reality and virtual reality could be used to enhance the attendee experience. That could include virtual tours of venues, interactive exhibits, and immersive presentations. With advances in data analytics and AI, it is becoming easier to personalize events to the needs and preferences of the attendees. In the future, events could be tailored to each attendee’s interests, making them more engaging and relevant.
The obvious answer, to what the industry should address immediately, is sustainability. Since the meeting industry has a significant impact on the environment, and there is growing pressure for the industry to address sustainability concerns. Event organizers need to adopt sustainable practices, such as reducing waste, using eco-friendly materials, and minimizing carbon emissions.
But just the other day, a colleague of mine sent me an article which concluded the results of recent research that said that event professionals are amongst the unhappiest workers across different industries. And this touched me and got me thinking that the meeting industry can be stressful and overwhelming for all involved. I know many colleagues that are working on the verge of burnout. It is apparent to me that there is a dire need to address mental health awareness throughout the industry. Also, diversity and inclusion are topics that cannot be overlooked – we need to create more welcoming and accessible events for everyone.
Q5: How does your destination stay up-to-date with the turbulent changes sweeping the meetings industry? What is your advice for our readers?
Communicating with colleagues across the world always helps. And the many international fairs and workshops (which are luckily once again happening face-to-face) provide a great opportunity to not only meet the planners but also the colleagues struggling with the same issues. And, of course, addressing the problems and collaborating with our local destination partners, such as venues, organizers, and other DMOs, is a great resource.
Good relations and working together within and between the destinations help to ensure that we remain competitive and attractive to event organizers. Sharing is caring, but sharing is also learning. We should learn from each other and spread the best practices.
Collaboration and communication between industry colleagues, event organizers, and local businesses will help you stay updated on trends and solve issues you are struggling with. Be willing to adapt and innovate to meet changing attendee needs – the attendee experience should be at the forefront, and the meeting destinations should aim to provide an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Q6: What should the meetings industry do to attract talented individuals? What is your advice for young talents starting their careers?
The meetings industry is a dynamic and exciting field, and I have always felt a pull towards it. I believe that to attract talent into the meetings industry, the industry needs to focus on creating a supportive and inclusive environment, providing opportunities for growth and development, and promoting the industry as an attractive career option. There are different possibilities to achieve all that, such as education, training and mentoring programs, providing equal opportunities, and adopting new technologies and tools for event management. Competitive pay is also crucial as salaries in the tourism sector tend to be on the lower side. And we should not forget mental health support, since too many of us are experiencing workplace burnout.
Building relationships and developing effective communication skills are essential in the meetings industry. Attend industry events, join conversations, and connect with industry colleagues to build a strong network that can help you grow and develop your career. Learn along the way and ask a lot of questions since the meetings industry is complex, and there is a lot to take in. Be mindful that the meetings industry is constantly changing, and you need to be open-minded and adapt fast. And keep being passionate even though the job is challenging and demanding, it is also exciting and rewarding. Be warned, the rush you feel during the event, and the fulfilment afterwards is addictive!
Q7: Where are you positioning your marketing efforts this year and the next?
I am a strong believer that meeting people face-to-face is the best way to really make an impression on someone. So, international fairs and workshops, FAM trips and site inspections are our first marketing preferences. But also being present on relevant digital channels, such as Kongres Magazine, and other digital marketing tools, such as social media and search engine optimization (SEO), to keep Tallinn on the horizon of meeting planners.
We are putting our emphasis on positioning ourselves as a sustainable meeting destination, a digitally advanced and technologically well-equipped destination (hybrid meetings) and a compact and historically and culturally rich destination, which can offer attendees a memorable experience. We will continue to collaborate with local partners and Estonian DMOs to showcase Tallinn’s meeting destination capabilities and optimize our overall collective marketing effort.
Q8: Your partners are possibly the most demanding meeting planners. What is it like to work with them and meet their needs?
Did you know that when we attend international fairs, such as IMEX or IBTM, we always act as “TEAM ESTONIA”? And we carry this sentiment over to our day-to-day work and communication as well. We feel as though we are a team with the same overall goal – bringing exciting international events to the destination and providing an excellent experience to our client and their delegates.
We acknowledge that our partners and stakeholders need to understand the latest industry trends, consumer behaviour and competition, and we support them with all that as best we can. Their feedback and involvement are crucial while making strategic plans, planning infrastructure development, and city support means. All the while keeping the focus on the sustainability of our actions to ensure that tourism activities and development are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.