March 10, 2009 / 5:09 PM / 10 years ago

Berlin launches charm offensive to lure tourists

Tourists protect themselves with umbrellas as they gather in front the Brandenburg Gate as first snow falls in Berlin in this file photo from November 21, 2008. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Berlin has launched a new “friendliness” campaign to keep tourists flocking to the German capital during a time of economic crisis.

With the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall looming in November and the World Championships in athletics due in August, police, street cleaners, airport staff and taxi drivers have begun wearing special red pins to signal to visitors that they are ready to lend a helping hand.

The campaign, launched this week by the city government and local companies, mirrors a friendliness drive that was launched back in 2006 when Germany hosted the soccer World Cup.

“Berlin has a reputation in Germany of being a rude city, but we’re a rude city with a heart,” said Rene Gorka, head of Berlin Partners, a marketing group that promotes the city.

After hitting a record high of eight million last year, the number of tourists to the German capital has leveled off in the start of 2009, due partly to the financial crisis, Gorka said.

“Despite the crisis, Berlin is still attractive,” he said, adding it was a bargain destination for tourists.

In addition to the 13 Berlin-based companies participating in the campaign, some 1,050 police officers and 2,000 transport workers are joining in.

“With the upcoming anniversary of the fall of the Wall and the World Championships in athletics, Berliners should be as friendly as they were in 2006 and not give any credence to our rude image,” Gorka said.

Reporting by Franziska Scheven, editing by Paul Casciato

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