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Giant Rugby Ball in London to Showcase New Zealand

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Tourism New Zealand has launched a new promotional campaign in the UK with the aim of wooing British travellers to visit New Zealand now and in the run up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

A giant rugby ball has completed its Channel Crossing from storage in France and is now installed alongside London’s famous Tower Bridge.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said the new UK campaign and the ball have come at a vital time for New Zealand’s tourism industry, with visitor numbers dropping from many major markets, including the UK.

In September, Tourism New Zealand launched a $7.3 million campaign in the UK based on research that British travellers are most likely to make their travel decisions based on talking to other Brits.

The UK is New Zealand’s second largest tourist market with over 288,823 visitor arrivals in the year to October 2008. UK arrival figures have been in close to double digit growth for most of the last decade, but in the year to October growth slumped by minus 3.7%.

Mr Hickton said the global credit crisis meant the New Zealand tourism industry was facing a slower summer as people were more cautious about travelling.

"Rather than pulling back on marketing, it is vital for New Zealand to invest in building our market share to sustain numbers from the UK and to position New Zealand well for when the upturn happens," Mr Hickton added.

The Rugby Ball Venue has already proved itself to be an eye-catching way to build New Zealand’s profile. When it went up in Paris in the final stages of the Rugby World Cup 2007, more than 25,000 went through the ball and a further 138 million viewers, readers and listeners saw or heard about it.

The ball, which will play host to the IRB pool allocation draw for the 2011 Rugby World Cup on 1 December, will remain between London’s City Hall and Tower Bridge until 2 December 2008.

The ball, which measures 25 metres long, 17 metres wide and 12 metres high, can hold up to 220 people, and took five days to construct. The air system works by two air pumps expelling 8,000 litres per second. It can house an estimated 600,000 conventional rugby balls.

The ball is a temporary venue open to the public free of charge that will use the latest in audio-visual technology to take visitors on a journey through New Zealand. This virtual voyage will showcase the country’s tourist offering - incredible natural history and rich cultural heritage to contemporary New Zealand culture.

The ball was designed and constructed by New Zealand’s Inside Out productions, who were also responsible for the three-storey Louis Vuitton suitcase that toured the world for Louis Vuitton’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

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