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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Will Germany's World Cup push pay off?
By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Berlin

A follower of the Brazil football team
Germany is expecting over a million visitors from overseas this summer

Germany's long hard sell is coming to an end - and now the country is bracing itself to see whether it will reap positive economic benefits from the World Cup.

"A Time to Make Friends" has been the slogan, and over the past two years the country has striven to spread its message far and wide.

Fifa, the German tournament organising committee, the Federal Government, private/public outfit Germany Land of Ideas, tourist bodies and individual cities, states, and economic development forums up and down the land have all tried to promote themselves in harness with World Cup 2006.

Other official messages have included "We Want to Roll out the Red Carpet For You" - the tag for the 6bn euros invested from both public and private funds in stadiums, hotels, roads and train stations.

It is a chance to portray Germany as a dynamic place to visit or do business

Germany Land of Ideas spokesman

Former World Cup-winning goalkeeper Andy Kopke has been pulled in to boost the country, as has, bizarrely, England 1966 hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst.

And 1982 "villain" Toni Schumacher has also been helping to spread the word at football events across Europe.

But the leader of them all has been Franz Beckenbauer. He has seemingly fronted a different event every day, from launching the Golden Ball that will be used in the 2006 final to presiding over the Wuerth works annual kickabout.

'Huge opportunity'

Despite this relentless plugging - and parallel feel-good declarations in the UK that the British economy is going to benefit from its usual burst of World Cup fever - there are mixed feelings in Germany about what the economic outcome will be.

Population: 82 million
Consumer inflation: 2.1%
VAT set to rise to 19% in 2007
Unemployment: 11.6%
Economic growth: 1.8% predicted for 2006
17,000 GDP per capita
ZEW measure of investor confidence at 6 month low
Third largest economy after US and Japan
World's top exporter
Football most popular sport
1 million visitors for World Cup

More than a million fans are predicted to give Germany's economy a significant boost during the World Cup.

The hope of politicians and the tourism sector has been that the world's largest sporting event should not be a one-off occurrence for visitors.

"We have a huge opportunity to show Germany is not just a soccer country but a tourist destination," says Klaus Laepple, president of the German tourism industry association.

The majority of finance experts interviewed by German finance magazine Capital believe the World Cup will have a positive effect on the economy. They also expect to see it boost the Dax stock market.

World Cup-themed souvenirs on sale in German store
Pile them high: World Cup products could be a nice little earner

Another study, from Postbank, claims the additional sales of TV sets, beer, soft drinks, VIP hospitality, sports goods and other WM-themed products will come to between two and three billion euros.

It also says that the World Cup could add half a percentage point to gross domestic product (GDP).

Foreign fans are expected to spend on average 150 euros a day. That spending will boost German export figures, keeping the nation at the top of the world league table, as visitor spending will be recorded as "export revenue" in national accounts.

'Sharp change'

But a report from Germany's influential DIW economic research institute seeks to puncture this growing optimism, forecasting that the World Cup will not significantly aid the country's economic situation.

The World Cup, it says, will have a negligible impact on the domestic economy, which for years has been beset by weak demand at home.

Germany Land of Ideas football boot sculpture in Berlin
Germany Land of Ideas has used football to raise the nation's profile

"It [an economic recovery] will only happen if the World Cup leads to a sharp change in consumption and investment behaviour," the DIW argues. "And that is not to be expected in this case."

But at Germany Land of Ideas they are convinced there is all to play for.

We wanted to overcome some of the pessimism German people sometimes feel, and show it is a country to be proud of
Germany Land of Ideas spokesman

"We are taking the opportunity of the World Cup to show the rest of the world that Germany is future-orientated, innovative, and prepared for hosting such a large, global event," said a spokesman.

"It is a chance to portray German as a dynamic place to visit or do business.

"Our partners include state and economic players, as well as major companies and organisations. But in many ways the message is for those outside the country and also within Germany too.

"We wanted to overcome some of the pessimism German people sometimes feel, and show that Germany is a country to be proud of."

'Welcome visitors'

The Germany Land of Ideas organisers were contacted by 1,200 organisations, including firms, wanting to take part in their promotions, which has involved some high-profile football-related sculptures in Berlin.

Bread stall at Nuremberg's Hauptmarkt
Visitors will be welcomed back to Nuremberg after the tournament

It has organised a welcome campaign for visitors and also produced a string of guidebooks and factbooks about the country, in a number of languages.

And Andreas Reitberger of Nuremberg City Council, where England will play Trinidad & Tobago on 15 June, has no doubts about the World Cup benefits.

"It is a chance for use to welcome people from places like Trinidad and Tobago, who might not otherwise come to Nuremberg, and who hopefully will come back again," he says.

It may be that German pessimism is about to end, whatever their team does on the football field.


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