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02 July 2024

Reinventing tourism facing Russian boycott: Narva on the edge

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Bordering Russia, Narva is an Estonian city of some 50,000 inhabitants in the extreme northeast of the country. Lying halfway between Tallinn and Saint Petersburg, it historically relied on strong ties with Russia. Yet, since the annexation of Crimea and especially the invasion of Ukraine, Russians have snubbed it, thus dealing a severe blow to the city's economy. Recently stressed by a conference on cultural management, targeting Western visitors and increasing the attractiveness of its region are now the main priorities to revive Narva’s tourist sector.

A key asset in this strategy is the Kreenholm Manufactory Company. Once a beacon and pride of the Estonian industry, it was founded in 1857 by Ludwig Knoop, a visionary ancestor of the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who last year insisted on visiting its premises to see with her own eyes what she called a “wonderland” that she heard so much about in her childhood. In its golden age, the manufactory attracted a workforce from all over Estonia, Poland, Russia, and other Eastern countries. It survived the Bolshevik revolution, two World Wars, and Estonian independence, before surrendering to globalisation and Asian competition in 2008.


Art installations and virtual tours supported by the EU project TExTOUR are part of a comprehensive effort to give a new lease of life to this abandoned factory, now also hosting movie productions and opera festivals. “The old factories have come to a standstill, and thousands of people have lost their jobs, but new ones are coming because culture is coming to help. All we are doing here is to give Kreenholm a new breath,” says Jaanus Mikk, manager of Narvagate, the company in charge of these events.

Replacing the massive share of Russian tourists who have been deserting Narva will not be easy, but the European Commission renews its longstanding support, points out Ave Schank-Lukas, its representative in Tallinn. “Europe has been here for the past 20 years, it is here today, and it will be here in the future,” she says. “There are already a couple of promising EU projects which could make the tourism sector lively, and we just heard that the number of domestic tourists in Ida Virumaa, Narva’s region, is increasing. So, even the Estonians are rediscovering this region, and we hope that there will soon be more EU tourists too.”

Learn more by watching the Video News Release produced by Diego Giuliani: Reinventing tourism facing Russian boycott: Narva on the edge provides its content to all media free of charge. We would appreciate if you could acknowledge as the source of the content.