Connecting Estonia’s brand story across multiple objectives

We’re delighted to have Liina Maria Lepik, Director of the Estonian Tourist Board, as one of our judges for the City Nation Place Awards. Ahead of the judging, we caught up with her to understand how Estonia’s place brand connects different stakeholders under a single brand vision, and how they’re talking about their sustainable values.


Visit Estonia is a part of the broader organisation, Enterprise Estonia. How can nations develop a collaborative storytelling approach across all pillars?


The core messages about a country must be developed in collaboration with all stakeholders (tourism, trade, invest, work, research, study, culture etc) – within and outside of our organization. The key is to agree on telling stories about a country that are always around mutual, core messages. While different stories or more specific messaging is built to meet particular needs, the starting point always has to be those core messages. Our core messages are always shared with one visual identity and brand logic to help grow wider recognition around Estonia. And we have a public toolbox which can be used by everybody to introduce and talk about Estonia in an up to date and on-brand way.

In Estonia, we also have a country promotion workgroup where all stakeholders come together two to four times per year, as well as an active everyday group to share news and studies.


How can you tell an authentic story around a greener future that inspires people to take action?

You must pin down the facts first – what are the real offerings of a country that contribute to the greener future (companies, international initiatives etc)? Then you build your inspiring story based on these facts. Estonians are quite sustainable by nature due to the way they live, but they may not recognise it as anything special; it is a hygiene factor for so many of us. Our challenge is to see the way that outsiders view this and to proudly present our authentic approaches to the world.

What role should tourism play in addressing the environmental and social challenges that the world is facing?

Quite a significant role, as tourism should be part of the solution not part of the problem as it is so often seen. Tourism should be a forerunner of sustainable development, not only for the locals but also in raising the awareness and meeting the expectations of the visitors. Also, tourism itself benefits greatly from sustainability due to its regional impact and in celebrating the local community.


Are you facing a shortage of talent in the hospitality and leisure sector? What can tourism organisations do to highlight the career possibilities within the industry?

Yes, unfortunately we - as so many other countries - are facing the lack of talent and workforce due to the uncertain times of pandemic. We all need to improve the attractiveness of the sector and prove that crisis has made the sector stronger and more adaptable - not weaker. Using more service design, digitalisation, and data based approaches, makes doing business more efficient but also attracts with smart solutions as well. Skill-based trainings can be a trigger too – people need to be more multi-skilled and are hired by their wide range of skill sets rather than professions and offering additional skill trainings in a flexible manner can improve the hiring.

But yes – improving the image and stability of the sector are crucial at this point.


As one of our judges for the 2022 City Nation Place Awards, is there something that you would be hoping to see in a winning entry?

I’m eager to meet fresh and eye-opening projects that have a wide impact on a destination. Being keen on sustainability both professionally and personally, I do hope to see that covered as well. I hope to be so surprised and amazed that I’ll have a new place on my “where I definitely need to go next” list thanks to the entry!

The City Nation Place Awards are open for entry! Find out more here!

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.