EU grants helping Estonia to promote itself to visitors and property investors

Membership of the European Union is benefiting Estonia as is starts a major marketing drive to attract more visitors and investors.

EU grants are being used to promote the country overseas, especially areas outside the capital Tallinn.

'We want foreign visitors to be more aware of the attractions that we have. We have beaches, mountains, historic buildings, romantic fishing villages and natural parks. Our marketing drive is aimed at increasing the number of tourists, create more demand for rental property and generate more investment,' said a spokesman for the Estonia Tourist Board.

Other attempts to boost investment are proving positive. A Chinese company has invested in the new $220 million container terminal and warehousing due to open at the port of Tallinn in 2011. It will make Tallinn the main transport port for the Baltic area.

A recent survey by Knight Frank named Tallinn as the third best city in Europe after Riga and Bucharest to invest in. It said a strong economy, shortage of new property, a fully computerised land registry and low levels of corruption and taxation made it a much better location than other East European countries.

Tallinn's Old Medieval Town is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the best-preserved medieval town centres in Europe. It has also been chosen at European Capital of Culture 2011.

'The Estonian Government has an open attitude to the foreign ownership of property and investment from overseas and this openness is encouraging foreign investment in real estate. Private ownership and entrepreneurship are respected in Estonia. Foreign investors can buy and sell residential property freely,' said a spokesman for Property in Estonia real estate agents.

Buy-to-let properties start at around £50,000 in Tallinn. But the Tourist Board is keen for investors to look beyond the capital.

'We will be spending the EU grants on promoting the countryside that is not well known,' added the spokesman. Estonia's Lahemaa National Park has hiking trails, quiet white sandy beaches and quaint fishing villages. Viljandi with its castle and lake is close to the Loodi Nature Park. The island of Hiiumaa is where a number of politicians and leading businessmen have second homes. Country properties with land start at around £7,000 although many have no mains water.