Anne Samlik: Being part of a national business delegation renders you trustworthy in the eyes of foreign partners and significantly simplifies processes

Anne Samlik is a member of the management board of Estravel, the largest flight, hotel and travel agency in Estonia and indeed any of the three Baltic States. It’s a tourism company with a rich history which has been in operation since 1988. Samlik has been participating in visits as part of national business delegations since 2004. “I’ve been to Japan, China, Ireland, Croatia, Finland, Portugal, Norway, Lithuania, Singapore, Georgia and Canada,” Samlik says, ticking off an impressive list of countries. She says the most memorable trips she’s taken were to Asia.

A desire to find new international partners and clients motivated her to take part in visits and join a business delegation, she reveals. “The tourism industry is highly competitive, so having a broad network of foreign partners gives you a definite advantage,” she explains. She adds that it’s easier to arrange important meetings with relevant people in the target country as a member of a delegation. Personal contacts and direct conversations can be of the utmost importance when developing business relationships. “Being part of a delegation renders you trustworthy in the eyes of potential partners,” she says. “It boosts your company’s credibility and creates opportunities for exciting partnerships.” She says that in Asian cultures, state support is especially important for entrepreneurs.

She points out that the destinations chosen by Estravel’s clients are very different. This is reflected in the fact that the company’s clients visit around 200 countries every year. Today, Estravel has subsidiaries in six countries. “In the more than 30 years we’ve been operating, we’ve had all kinds of situations come up when communicating with foreign partners, but one thing I can say for sure is that being part of a national business delegation creates new connections and, for the most part, significantly simplifies processes,” Samlik says.

She adds that she personally has seen the support the state gives many times when entering foreign markets. “An example is when we entered the Japanese market back in 2004,” she recalls. “We visited JTB, the biggest Japanese travel agency, that year as part of a business delegation, which turned out to be the cornerstone of our operations in the Land of the Rising Sun. I know for a fact it would’ve been enormously difficult to arrange a meeting at that level on my own.” She says that Kosaku Yamaguchi, a representative of Enterprise Estonia, arranged the meeting with JTB, in which several of the delegation members participated. After this main meeting, Samlik got the ball rolling by showcasing Estravel to some important people. JTB serves Estravel’s clients in Japan to this day. However, Samlik emphasises that even though the role of the state’s representative is important, it’s not a guarantee of success. “The state might open doors for you, but you yourself have to step through them,’ she says.

In order for visits to be as useful as possible for entrepreneurs, Samlik recommends thorough groundwork. “The official part of visits is certainly informative and educational,” she says. “Plus the programme and the members of the Estonian delegation have always done the state proud on the visits I’ve been on. But the planning of potential contacts it’s worth initiating contact with needs to be done by the entrepreneur themselves. Inviting existing partners to events and business seminars organised by the state is a good opportunity to develop business relationships with them though.”

According to Samlik, going on international visits is important for the development of the Estonian economy and entrepreneurship and she encourages every entrepreneur to do so on target markets that are important to them. “Such visits offer extensive benefits, from creating direct contacts to developing a broader worldview,” she says. “The same goes for travelling in general, which I naturally recommend everyone do as much as possible!”

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