I decided to participate in the “Press Alt for Tourism” training course simply because the topic of the programme is related to my field of interest. Just for note, I’ve never been a part of an Erasmus project before. Since 2018 I’ve been working at the official Tourism Department of Tallinn, known by the brand Visit Tallinn. Tourism development is something that I plan on doing for the rest of my career. As I’m a professional regarding urban tourism and mass tourism, I wanted to learn more about rural and alternative tourism to expand my knowledge in my area of expertise. It was also my mission to gather interesting details about tourism from other participating countries and to make new contacts for future reference.
Many participants in this project were not directly related to tourism, by that I mean they had not either studied it nor were working in that field. Something that I always contributed was details of how tourism operates in Tallinn and gave good and bad examples from the rest of the world as well. I spread the knowledge that I had to have great discussions and to bring others more into the topic itself. I tried to not let the conversation be superficial and meaningless, I wanted it to be a learning experience. I also was always on time and tried to make the situation better for the project managers. Before the course began, I took over as the team leader of the Estonian group. I organized meetings and put together plans for the Estonian night. All of the group of course worked on it.
I learned how alternative tourism can really be the solution for our mass tourism situations in the world and in Tallinn as well. The cities need to be viewed as the gates and the first taste of the country. For the capitals to stay clean, beautiful and to breathe, we need to spread out tourists more evenly throughout the country. It would also improve the situation in rural areas where there aren’t many job opportunities and businesses are closing down due to low numbers of visitors. Just like in urban tourism, in alternative tourism there is an activity for everyone! The difference is, entrepreneurs in alternative tourism need to take more action and to work harder than the ones in big cities. They need to be educated in marketing, and the country’s official tourism agencies and departments need to support these activities as well. More often than not we see countries marketing the same big monuments and activities that are all sold out in the end, why? Estonia is a good example of how a country is marketing itself through alternative activities such as bog shoeing, ice-skating of frozen bog lakes, kayaking in the forests of Soomaa and so many more nature activities. Visit Estonia brings hundreds of influencers, journalists, and tourism professionals into the country each year and rather than only introducing them to the capital, they take them outside the city as well to experience something alternative.
To give feedback on my part on which areas to improve for future projects then the project managers should be more aware of the living conditions before the participants arrive. They should know the basics – how many showers and toilets they have, do they have refrigerators, where can people get water, where can you get more trash bags etc. At the end of the project, the building was full of garbage. Even if I tried to clean, there weren’t any trash bags available to use. Also, when planning the activities in a warm country, please take note of the participants’ health situations. We were asked to climb a mountain with hot weather, for many of us this climate and sun is dangerous and as we didn’t have much water, it could have ended badly for some. You need to be incredibly clear on how long the activity is going to take and what is the distance. Then people can decide for themselves if it’s within their power to participate. Also, for nature activities, there needs to be a guide in front and in the back of the group.
I would recommend this experience for everyone who loves traveling, meeting other people and having new discussions. I don’t recommend this to people who really need their private space and who can not handle small discomforts. These types of projects are not easy to do, but it will be an incredible experience if that’s what you make out of it. Discomfort is worth it!
My most memorable evenings were definitely the cultural nights, including our own. Learning new interesting aspects about different countries, experiencing their cuisine and music. It was inspiring to see the passion in their eyes while they were talking about their home. I loved how we danced and sang almost every evening, even if the day was incredibly hard it still always ended on a warm note. My favorite tourism activities were definitely the debates regarding alternative tourism and the final project that we presented to the municipality. Hopefully some of our ideas will be implemented in the town of Busot.
Thank you and until next time!