WARSAW (AFP) - The number of tourists who visited Poland soared in July and August, thanks to an advertising campaign which turned the negative symbol of cheap eastern European labour - the Polish plumber - into a blonde hunk carrying a monkey-wrench who beckons foreigners to visit his country.
"The campaign was well taken up around the world. It focussed the attention of lots of people on our country," the Polish tourism board's Krzysztof Turowski told reporters.
The symbol of the Polish plumber, representing cheap labour from new EU member states, was vilified earlier this year during national referendum campaigns on the EU constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters.
But Poland's tourism board cleverly turned this negative image into a positive when it launched a campaign at the start of the summer that used a seductive blonde man clutching pipes and a monkey-wrench, above the slogan, "I am staying in Poland -- come on over."
Thanks to the handsome, muscle-bound Polish plumber, the number of French tourists visiting Poland in July and August rose 14 percent compared with the same two months last year to 57,400.
"Our plumber even scored in Australia," said Turowski. Fifty-six percent more Australians, or 10,200, visited Poland this summer than the previous year.
The numbers of Cypriots, whose country, like Poland, joined the EU in May last year, rose the most -- by nearly 130 percent. Eight-hundred Cypriots visited Poland in July and August.
Other visitors who found the idea of coming to Poland particularly attractive were; Canadians - up 62 percent to 19,500 visitors in July and August, new EU nationals from Malta - up 59 percent, and British and Irish nationals - up 47 percent and 33 percent.
The number of summertime visitors from the United States rose nearly 25 percent to 95,100, while Japanese visitor numbers rose around 20 percent to 8,500