Germany kicks off the shopping

Heike Murad

ARABS love their football and they love their shopping. The fact that Germany’s promoting both themes in this year of the FIFA World Cup is no less than a canny marketing move designed to increase the country’s inbound travellers from the Middle East.

Last year, Middle Eastern tourists accounted for more than half a million overnight stays and the region is now one of the country’s top 20 source markets – despite its biggest tourism market being Germany itself, with domestic tourists accounting for 86 per cent of overnight stays. In a bid to grow the regional market, then, the German National Tourism Board opened a new office in Dubai and Heike Murad, its manager, GCC States, sits down to football and shopping with KEITH J FERNANDEZ. Excerpts from an interview:

City breaks, spas and health resorts… what do Middle Eastern tourists visit Germany for?
You’ve pointed them out! These are exactly the reasons for travelling to Germany. Destination number one within Germany is Bavaria and this is for sure because of the amazing landscapes in that region.

Where does the Middle East rate as a source market for Germany? How many tourists come to Germany from the region each year?
The reason why the German National Tourist Board decided to open a new office for this region is the increase in travellers from here to Germany. The share in overnight stays from the GCC states to Germany is 1.4 per cent and so this region is one our top 20 source markets. Cumulative November 2005 we had around 619,000 overnight stays from the Middle East, an increase by 26.8 per cent, the highest numbers we’ve seen from this region in 10 years. We expect to achieve a further increase of 10 per cent in 2006.

All of us football-lovers are very excited about this year’s World Cup. What are the highlights for travellers to Germany in 2006? How will the GNTB make these available?
The most important event is indeed the FIFA World Cup. The whole world will be watching, and we are very well prepared to welcome all the international guests. While unfortunately not everybody will be able to get a ticket and experience the special atmosphere in a stadium, public viewing areas and fan festivals will be held in many towns as well as the 12 host cities. This year we are also promoting another theme, Shopping: Made in Germany. Germany offers great shopping opportunities in the cities but also in the smaller towns and for most of the foreign travellers shopping is a very important part during their holidays.  
For each theme we provide special brochures that introduce Germany accordingly. Our other activities are also related to the particular themes.

And how successful was 2005’s Family Holidays programme?
All our marketing strategies and concepts are always based on specific themes, events and attractions. Last year’s Family Holidays was very successful especially because it highlighted activities for children in Germany.

So how will the FIFA World Cup impact tourism this year?
Being hosted in 12 cities, the World Cup will have a tremendous impact on visitors to Germany and we expect one million more foreign visitors from around the world. We’re sure that impact will not be limited to this year, and that it will help us create a very awareness for Destination Germany.

Promotions over the next few years? Are any specifically tailored to the Middle East market?
It’s very difficult to create a specific theme for a single market, so we always define themes which hit the majority of travellers. In 2007, we are promoting Germany as the land of culture and art, while in 2008, it’s Romantic Germany. The following year, it’s Germany in the heart of Europe, while 2010 is Germany as a cultural centre.