Given the near drought of UK accommodation bookings for the coming summer season, it is gratifying to see an above average number of bookings from German tourists.  A recent visit to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically, of a group of German travel agents should see an even greater number of German tourists.

The 2010 Soccer World Cup led to the immediate benefit of German bookings, given the outstanding coverage our city and country received on each of the days that a German team played during the World Cup.  German TV station ZDF, using our ex-Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss as its presenter, and directed by local resident Dagmar Schumacher, broadcast from a number of destinations around the country for an hour prior to each match.

Last week a group of 55 travel agents from Meier’s Weltreisen, a tourism company specialising in long-distance package tours for Germans and Austrians, including the rental of cars and campervans, as well as offering tailor-made tours, visited South Africa, and spent time in Cape Town too.   Meier’s Welreisen is one of the largest German tour operators, and is celebrating its 30th year of operation this year.

“Germany is a key and crucial tourism market for South Africa, and we invest significantly in encouraging Germans to visit here. While our arrivals from the country are already posting a strong recovery, more than 17.5% increase recorded for the first five months of 2011, we also recognise the need to continue strengthening trade relations as an avenue to long term sustainable growth”, said Fiona Buchner, Regional Director: Europe, of SA Tourism.

The itinerary of the Meier’s Weltreisen group visit, organised in conjunction with SA Tourism, SAA and Private Safaris, included Johannesburg, Sun City, the Garden Route, the Eastern Cape, Madikwe Game Reserve, and the Western Cape.  Buchner said that over and above showing the agents the tourist sites, they also wanted to show them the ‘welcoming people and enriching experiences‘ of the country, being the ‘typical encounter that the German traveller sees’. Meier’s Weltreisen Director of the Africa Division, Martina Beeken, said: “South Africa is one of our most important partners in terms of long-haul travel and we look forward to fully experiencing the fascinating cultural mix; warm, friendly and welcoming people and the beautiful scenery that South Africa offers.  South Africa is a world-class tourism destination with an outstanding hospitality offering of which service, accessibility, and value for money are the foundation”. Fantastic praise indeed!

In Cape Town the group was spoilt with a welcome dinner at which Cape Minstrels performed, an Amazing Race-style event through the V&A Waterfront, ‘champagne and oysters’ (one would hope that it was good Winelands MCC!) at Cape Point, and a transfer to the Winelands in vintage cars, reports The Event.

The Whale Cottage Portfolio has seen a marked increase in bookings from German guests, some being return visitors, and others booking at Whale Cottage Hermanus in particular, to see the whales, guests seeing listings about the guest house in a number of German travel guides.

It is surprising and disappointing that Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited appeared to not have been involved in the visit by the Meier’s Weltreisen travel agents, in that no welcome was accorded the group via Twitter or media presence!

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