Whilst our tourism authorities and wine producers are actively chasing the BRICS markets, and thereby neglecting the traditional source markets of the UK, USA and Europe in their marketing, it was a welcome surprise to read in the past week that German tourists are loving South Africa as a tourism destination, as well as enjoying drinking its wines.

Cape Business News reported that the number of German tourists increased by 10% between January and November 2011 to reach 211000, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk stating that Germany is the third largest tourism source country, ‘contributing 9% of GDP through tourist spend’. The Minister also said that 40 % of the German visitors had been to South Africa before, a high repeat visitor number and ‘testifies to the attractiveness of our destination’.

The Minister was speaking at the 46th ITB (Internationale Tourismusbörse), the world’s largest travel trade show with 170000 leisure visitors and 108000 trade visitors exposed to 10000 exhibitors from around the world over a five day period.  He added that the German tourist market ‘is one of the most valuable in the world’.  German tourists are increasingly price sensitive in their choice of travel destination, and seek meaningful holiday experiences, in not only seeing beautiful scenery, but to also leave a lasting legacy through their visit.  SA Tourism is working hard at marketing our country in Germany, having signed 17 joint marketing agreements with all the top German tour operators, and trained more than 2000 trade operators to encourage sales.

At ITB a number of tourism trends were evident, reports Cape Town Tourism, including:

*   International travellers are taking shorter holiday trips, for nine days on average.

*   ‘Germany is the most economically optimistic country in the Eurozone and German travelers (sic) are positive in their travel prospects’, says the oddly worded media release. Given zero growth in the UK travel market, Germany may overtake the UK as South Africa’s major source market this year.

*   ‘Travel bloggers are gaining recognition as one of the most credible sources of online travel information’, and the organisation writes that it will host the four most influential international travel bloggers later this year.

*   Half of all bookings are made on-line, with travel agents making up less than one-third

The Drink Tank reported last week that South African wine exports to Germany reached the number one slot in January, for the first time overtaking the UK market.  South African wine exports to Germany reached 81 million litres, a 13 % increase, now slightly ahead of the UK’s 80,9 million litres.  UK wine imports dropped by 23 % internationally in the past year.  China showed the largest increase in South African wine sales, by 17% in total, and by 66% in bottle sales, and has reached the 10th position in wine imports.  South African wine sales to Kenya and Nigeria are also showing good growth.  Bulk wine imports (for bottling in the import country, usually to save transport costs) have increased generally, by 19% in Germany, and by 91% to Denmark, 56% to Sweden, and 8% to UK.  South African bottle exports have decreased across the board,  with the UK showing the sharpest decline of 42%, even though it remains in top position.  We wrote about Oldenburg Wines from Stellenbosch, and their popularity in Oldenburg Germany, recently.

Germany is the strongest European country and traditional tourism source market economically, and we would like to encourage SA Tourism to increase its marketing spend in this valuable tourism source market, given its above average tourism growth, and linked South African wine drinking, based on the wine estates and brands they experience on their South African holidays.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage