Tourists bowled over by new airport

A group of 70 German tourists were among the first international visitors to use Durban's new R7,2-billion King Shaka International Airport, when they arrived at the airport on Sunday to be greeted by a colourful dance group of Zulu women.

As they entered the main arrivals hall on the opening weekend, the dance group jolted into action, dancing and singing "welcome, welcome to Durban". The tourists - brought in by SA Tourism as part of a competition with the German radio station SWR3 - joined in enthusiastically. They clapped and snapped away with their digital cameras.

The airport at La Mercy, north of Durban, opened on Saturday and the big event drew thousands of local people. The performance for the German tourists by the "Moyo Restaurant Babes" added to the excitement, with locals pushing forward to see what was happening.

Isabelle Kendzia, a public relations executive for SA Tourism in Germany, said the joint marketing initiative with SWR3, was aimed at increasing the vibe about South Africa in Germany ahead of the Fifa World Cup.

"There has been a lot of negative press in Germany around the hosting of the World Cup... SA Tourism decided to work with SWR3 - which has more than four million listeners - to run a competition to bring 70 Germans to the country.

"It was a huge promotion and publicity campaign about South Africa on SWR3 and lucky winners get to tour the country. They will spend four days in KwaZulu-Natal visiting tourist attractions like the new Durban stadium and Cape Vidal in the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park on the northern Zululand coast," she said.

"Germany's first World Cup game is in Durban, so what better way to promote the tournament and South Africa from here. The aim is for this group of 70 to convey the message that South Africa is a great country to visit, through their own testimonial of the country. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful marketing tool and that is what we're doing with this initiative," added Kendzia.

She said the timing was perfect with the group coming into Durban on the opening weekend of the new King Shaka International Airport.

"They have been very impressed with first impressions and experiences at the airport. With all the buzz and carnival atmosphere during the opening, they got a foretaste of what they could expect during the World Cup," she said.

Dirk Rothenbucher of SWR3 said the German radio station would be working with East Coast Radio to be able to broadcast live from Durban to Germany while in the city.

· This breaking news article was provided exclusively to by the news desk at our sister publication, The Mercury.

Article by: Suren Naidoo - Send in by