Estonian Tourist Board's Service Design Masterclass

Ave Pill and Küllike Tint talk about the Estonian Tourist Board's Service Design Masterclass and how it helps businesses, such as Guidio.

The Estonian Tourist Board's Service Design Masterclass has supported 50 tourism businesses through a four-month intensive course to design their services with consumers' perspectives in mind. Guidio share how this programme helped the business improve its development strategy

The Estonian Tourist Board's Service Design Masterclass has supported 50 tourism businesses through a four-month intensive course to design their services with consumers' perspectives in mind. Guidio share how this programme helped the business improve its development strategy

Estonia is a digitally advanced country; which is reflected within their country branding with the slogan "The coolest digital society". Estonia is the first country in the world to use blockchain at a national level. The entire country is covered by broadband connection. 99% of state services are online; the only exception being marriages and divorces cannot be done online. 98% of companies are established online and 97% of tax declarations are completed online with digital IDs. 2% of national GDP is saved annually through having digital signatures.

The country has had Internet voting since 2005 and 51% of votes were cast online at the 2022 national elections; this method of voting was especially popular among older generations due to their reduced level of mobility. This digitalisation helps reflect the feeling that Estonia is a country with little bureaucracy. In Estonia, it's possible to establish a new business in under 3 hours. The country also has an e-residency programme, with over 25,000 companies created by e-residents from across the world.

The digitalisation journey never ends. The more you digitise, more specific solutions to various challenges can attempt to be solved. The Estonian government has created a website where citizens can propose new areas for driving digital solutions.

Tourism Challenges

Despite digitalisation and service design at the governmental level, many tourism companies think that they know how things should be done and don't listen to their customers.

When people talk about digitalisation in tourism, they tend to refer only to digital marketing. However, this doesn't cover all elements of digitalisation. Digitalisation in tourism can covers four main areas, which can be brought together through service design:

  1. Business processes, inventory and resources: This creates master data.
  2. Digital guest journey: This includes online bookings, and automated check-in and check-out processes.
  3. Digital guest experiences: For example, VR tours and using AI tools for product development.
  4. Digital marketing: Both online and social media marketing.

Service Design Masterclass

The Estonian Tourist Board faced a challenge in terms of how to change the mindset of service providers so that they can see things from their consumers' perspectives. A service design programme was created for businesses to consider their own insights, with additional guidance and external perspective from the Estonian Tourist Board.

The Estonian Tourist Board's Service Design Masterclass has supported 50 tourism businesses divided across four groups through a four-month intensive course. The Masterclass programme helps teams of two or three people per company. The benefits of the programme includes:

  1. Personal Service Designer: Conducting a service design audit to give an external review and fresh perspectives, help define problems and provide mentoring to keep businesses on track. The Personal Service Designers bring an international perspective, which helps bring insights on promoting Estonian tourism to foreign markets.
  2. Lectures and workshops: A series of five lectures, workshops and teamwork over five 8-hour long days.
  3. Prototype: Creating a prototype of the product, with each group competing for a 5000 Euros prize.

40 businesses have graduated from the programme, and a survey will be distributed to understand if these companies still use service design tools six months after the end of the programme and their learnings and overall opinions about the usefulness of the Service Design Masterclass.

The biggest challenges for service design are to define a problem, simplify businesses ideas and build a solution from the customer's perspective. Problem understanding also involves considering uncertainties and possible gaps in knowledge to understand potential limitations.

You don't always need to commission research. Solutions can simply be tested in the marketplace to get feedback. The Estonian Tourist Board helps local DMOs understand the importance of service design tools to support the businesses within their destination to think differently.  80% of companies think they provide excellent service; but only 8% of customers agree.

The key lessons learnt were:

  1. The importance of empathy: Consider the perspective of the end-user.
  2. A clearer understanding of focus and purpose: Help understand business problems and strategic areas of focus.
  3. Important insights as input to strategy: Gaining new knowledge and an external perspective
  4. Trust the process: It seems daunting at first, but service design can significantly improve the final product and service.


Guidio were one of the participants of the Service Design Masterclass. Guidio are a heritage and tourism company that offers science-based and history themed outdoor audio experiences. They aim to make history come to life. Estonia has many cultural heritage sites; many of which don't have an interpretation or visitor information signage. Guidio developed an audio experience to help visitors connect with the past through staged audio plays, with topics ranging from the Stone Age to the 20th century. Guidio also plans to offer lectures to give users the option to decide their preferred content style. Flexibility is key for visitors at natural locations so that they can choose when they want to consume the content and don't need a physical tour guide.

Guidio was founded in May 2022 and are still developing the first experience. The team is comprised of four archeologists and one history teacher and found the Service Design Masterclass useful to get a business perspective on the potential demand for the product and how to make the solution attractive for tourists. The programme helped the company to better create a business strategy, with the following learning outcomes:

  1. Shift in thinking patterns
  2. Instead of focusing on the webpage, the design thinking process helped to reconsider the user experience and consider personalised experiences as part of the initial development phase, which saved money. The key questions were:
  3. Who are the visitors going to the heritage sites?
  4. Are they planners or spontaneous visitors?
  5. Should content be site-based or themed content?
  6. How to provide content and experiences for people with mobility issues?

  1. Rethought that the product is audio experiences - not audio guides - the visitor will gain emotionally from their visit to the heritage site
  2. Think bigger about digital solutions - the initial development will be a progressive web-app, but also thinking about the potential development of a mobile app in the future.

From interviews with prospective customers, the following conclusions were drawn:

  1. Visitors want more local businesses, culture and heritage tourism being promoted through other audio clips.
  2. Guidio will offer "what to do" information their webpage.
  3. Guidio aim to cooperate more with local businesses, with the possibility of giving discounts to customers referred through their platform.

Guidio will add an information board, with a QR code that directs users to the website. The user can select the language for the audio experience and listen to a short preview. Users can then make an informed decision about whether to purchase the audio descriptions and interpretation and subscribe for future additions.

In the current stage of development, Guidio's product is targeted towards individual users, such as families, and groups of friends. However, in the future, the audio experiences will also be tailored towards schools, with additional complementary activities and worksheets. They also hope to be commissioned by other companies to develop new audio experiences.

However, a challenge for international expansion was also identified during the Service Design Masterclass research process. The Guidio name is already in use by another company for museum interpretative guides, meaning a name change may be required if the company wants to offer their services in another country, or on a multi-country audio experience.

Key Takeaways

  1. Digitalisation is a never-ending journey to ensure that companies continue to improve their products and services.
  2. Service Design creates a clearer understanding of focus and purpose for organisations.
  3. It's important to be empathetic and consider the perspective of the end-user during the design process.
Published on:
April 2023
About the contributor

Ave Pill

Ave Pill, Head of Digitalisation at the Estonian Tourism Board, has designed services and solved digitalisation issues in the travel agency and hospitality industries. She is now contributing to achieving long-term strategic goals of the Innovation Business Model and Digitalisation Roadmap of Estonian Tourism.

Küllike Tint

Küllike is an archaeologist. Apart from regular museum work, she is involved in the presentation of archaeology and cultural heritage in various ways. At the moment she works with four other historians in the company Guidio to bring history to life through audio experiences on the site.