The third round of grant funding for international events and conferences has attracted 69 project applications with a total value of EUR2.8 million. The hopefuls included organisers of 32 conferences, 23 cultural events and 14 sporting events. Applications for funding - which can cover up to 70 per cent of conference costs - closed in September. Decisions will be made in early December.
Financed by the EU's Regional Development Fund and administered by Enterprise Estonia/the Estonian Tourist Board, the grant allows organisers of large, international conferences to have EUR15,000 to 32,000 of their costs reimbursed provided they meet certain criteria.
To qualify, conferences have to be international, help raise Estonia's profile as a travel destination, be at least three days in length, include a minimum of 300 overnight stays and involve a local or regional sightseeing element. Only non-profit events and only Estonian organising committees are eligible to apply.
Funds can be used to cover a broad spectrum of conference-related expenses from organisation and marketing to opening and closing events.
The aim of the program is to promote Estonia as a conference destination and increase the number of overnight stays, especially during the country’s low season.
Monica Hankov, product development director of the Estonian Tourist Board said: "The more professionally organised the events and conventions are, the more attractive they are, and that spells increased attendance, higher hotel occupancy and an overall positive influence on the local economies."
The budget for the current funding round is EUR1 million. During the two previous rounds, 41 events were given a total of EUR2.1 million in support.
Enterprise Estonia has managed to resolve its problems with 40 companies affected in its unfolding funding mess, but today requested that four businesses pay back a total of 780,000 euros in EU aid.
The European Commission discovered last year that Enterprise Estonia had for years violated the rules for handing out grants by approving companies that had begun operations prior to applying for aid. Enterprise Estonia is now in the embarrassing position of being forced to demand that some of the grants be given back, a situation that resulted in the resignation of the agency's director on November 12.
The agency has been able to resolve 40 of the 61 cases, most of which have been reclassified as "minor aid,“ accounting for 83,000 euros in total. A decision will be made on the remainder of the cases by the year's end, according to Enterprise Estonia. Altogether the funding in question totals 10.5 million euros.
At least one company has said it would go to court if it is forced to pay back its grant.