Estonian capital Tallinn has made quite a name for itself in international tourism recently, differentiating itself from the stag party-led image of its Baltic neighbours to become a top business destination in its own right.
Its growing position was highlighted this month when American president Barack Obama paid an official visit to president Toomas Hendrik Ilves en route to a NATO Summit in Wales.
Addressing hundreds in the city’s Freedom Square, president Obama praised the “beautiful land” of Estonia and congratulated the people on their “incredible hospitality”.
But the American president was just the latest in a rapidly growing stream of visitors to the country, and merely the most recent to recognise the warmth of its welcome.
Estonia saw 1.94 million overnight foreign tourists in 2013, an increase of 3.6 per cent on the previous year and the fourth consecutive record year in absolute terms.
Between them these guests generated €1.35 billion in tourism revenue, again 8.5 per cent more than in 2012.
A luxurious welcome to Hotell Palace in Tallinn
As low-cost flights from Western Europe have poured in so demand has risen.
More recently Tallinn in particular has also seen the return of visitors from closer source markets in Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and, especially, Finland.
Some 700,000 people arrived in Tallinn last year on business and as numbers have risen, so have expectations.
While international chains have started to wake up to the opportunities on offer in the Estonian capital, one local business has done more than any other to meet the growing demand - Tallinn Hotels.
The group presently operates five properties in the city, including Hotel Bern and Savoy Boutique Hotel, which has been recognised as Estonia’s Leading Boutique Hotel by the prestigious World Travel Awards for the past two years.
Chief among the properties for business travellers is the Hotell Palace, located in a prime location overlooking Freedom Square in the centre of town.
Suite accommodation at Hotell Palace
Originally designed by architect Elmar Lohk, and dating back to 1937, Tõnu Steinberg, sales and marketing director for Tallinn Hotels, explains the property “represents Estonia at the highest level, a business card for the city”.
Acquired from Scandic Hotels by EfTEN Real Estate Fund in 2013, upward to €10 million has been invested in bringing the hotel up to international standards, and it has paid off in spades.
At the opening EfTEN Capital chief executive Viljar Arakas described the preservation of the hotel as a “question of honour”; insisting Hotell Palace would stand to represent the city for generations to come.
Reopening from its comprehensive renovation in July this year, the historic façade of the property now reveals a contemporary business property.
The 79 rooms of the majestic building afford every convenience you would expect at this level - air conditioning, interactive digital TV, free wi-fi, minibar, et al. – while bathrooms offer spacious walk-in rain showers.
In all categories, the walls in each room are decorated with works from renowned Estonian painter Konrad Mägi, bringing a flourish of class to the property, while staff throughout add to the sense of calm with discreet, courteous service.
Interior design by Estonian Vaikla Disain also brings a touch of majesty to the atmosphere, with many pieces commissioned especially for the property and employing only Estonian materials.
A relaxing spa break at Hotell Palace
Worthy of special mention is the Presidential Suite, which exceeds expectations for a property of this size.
Comprising 150 m2, it contains a living area, master bedroom, private office and meeting room, while the suite also benefits from a balcony, a fire place, a private kitchen and even a private sauna.
It surely must be the best accommodation in the city – and is available from €600 a night.
Downstairs Restaurant Konrad is the ideal location for business meetings, lunches and dinners.
Here chef Rene Uusmees presents modern Estonian cuisine, matching modern technologies, customs and trends with local ingredients to create something extraordinary.
Open to everybody, the lounge is decorated with a retrospective of the fine arts of the period between 1917 and 1940, fusing literature and paintings into modern cuisine.
Fine dining at Restaurant Konrad at Hotell Tallinn
Of course, there can be no escape from business.
Hotell Palace offers the Bühlberg Conference & Banqueting Suite, accommodating up to 75 people on the ground floor of the hotel.
Ideal for meetings, training courses, and business appointments, the location and can also be used to host a formal dinner.
Tallinn is on the way up and Hotell Palace is leading the charge. For more information and booking head over to the official website.