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March 12, 2009

Berlin welcomes 2010 FIFA World Cup mascot


Miss World snuggles up to Zakumi

Zakumi and I started our journey at Cape Town International Airport where we were met by broad smiles, some squeezing of furry paws and lots of questions! The cheeky-looking 2010 FIFA World Cup mascot was about to embark on his first international journey and was determined to make the most of it! Customs officials held up the bag-checking process to have their pictures taken with Zakumi, while our fellow queuing passengers smiled indulgently.

The usually stoic atmosphere of the departures hall was replaced with boisterous laughter, plenty of patriotic “thumbs up” by fellow South Africans and barely contained curiosity by visiting foreigners. I was already having a blast!

My nervousness at how my popular not-so-little friend was going to be accommodated on the plane swiftly dissipated as the cabin crew “oohed”, “aahed” and promptly provided our budding star with his own sleeping quarters – seatbelt and all. And so our long flight to London (where we’d hop onto another plane for Berlin) began.

We received a similar welcome at Heathrow, although I can’t say that some of our fellow passengers enjoyed the same courtesy. And people say our customs officials are unfriendly? Clearly they haven’t been to the UK lately! We were soon aboard another British Airways plane, with some more Zakumi-induced super hospitality, and on our way to Berlin.

The rest of that day is a bit of a blur after the long flight, but one thing’s for sure: Zakumi, and particularly the World Cup he represents, has managed to generate excitement across continents, through language barriers and amongst South Africans and foreigners alike.

There is no doubt in my mind (and I’m sure Zakumi shares this sentiment) that the 2010 FIFA World Cup is going to be one that the world will never forget!

We attended a welcome function at the South African (SA) embassy in Tiergarten, Berlin, on Monday night.

The function, hosted by the SA Embassy in Berlin at their stately abode, was well attended by some 200 SA tourism officials attending ITB. After the SA Ambassador to Germany, Eddie Funde, welcomed the group, a well-presented and concise (six minutes to be precise) speech by Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk followed.

Van Schalkwyk highlighted the increase of Germans travelling to the US after renewed faith in the country since the Obama election and noted the 6.5% decrease in German visits to SA in the fourth quarter of last year, largely due to the global economic downturn.

The subsequent speaker, Annamarie Ferns( head of South African Tourism Germany), stressed the importance of continuing to deploy SA marketing efforts in the German market in order to stabilise and grow numbers pre-, during and post-2010. She then presented SAT’s German focussed “khaki” campaign, which centres on the promotion of South Africa as an exciting adventure destination through a number of mediums, including television and print.


The first day at ITB:

Within the first 30 minutes of arriving at the Cape Town booth on the SAT, Zakumi and the Cape Town Tourism team were interviewed for German television and captured on camera by no less than eight international journalists. The popularity of the Cape Town booth continued in a non-stop stream of media and travel trade from across the globe for the duration of the day.

The topic on everyone’s lips, no matter the language in which it was uttered, was unanimous – Cape Town – the host city for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Comments on Cape Town’s state of readiness as well as its overwhelming appeal as a “must see” destination, both during and after the World Cup, were positive.

Eva Fernandez Vallejo, general manager of Spanish-based travel agency, MasQueSol, said, “So many people in Spain are excited about the World Cup and they all want to stay in Cape Town.” Vallejo, who has not yet visited Cape Town or SA, will be hosted in Cape Town by Cape Town Tourism later this year to ensure that she is able to sell the destination enthusiastically from personal experience.

Peter den Hartogh of Hartogh Productions in Germany visited the stand to meet with the team, as he will arrive in Cape Town in April to film the Cape Town part of “African Dream” – a documentary about the World Cup and Sepp Blatter, which will be released worldwide in June 2010.

Cape Town Tourism is arranging film permits and ensuring that as many of Cape Town’s unique experiences as possible are showcased in the film. Meetings held by Cape Town Tourism with travel trade saw the team meeting with representatives from the UAE, UK, the Netherlands, France, India, Romania and Thailand.

The “You’ve been snapped” campaign leapt off to a fantastic start with more than 30 pictures being taken in the first four hours. Trade and media are invited to have their picture taken with the 2010 mascot, after which they receive a card informing them that they’ve been “snapped with Zakumi” and encouraging them to find their pic on www.capetown.travel/itb.

Once they’ve located their picture, they simply need to click on it, enter their details and a comment containing the words, “I love Cape Town because…”

Participants stand the chance of winning two tickets to a World Cup game in Cape Town, as well as accommodation and transport.

On Thursday 12 March, Cape Town Tourism is participating in a media talk to some 100 German and Austrian journalists. The topic, of course, will be Cape Town – 2010 and beyond!

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