‘No Br__sels without us’ is the phrase that is filling the streets of the Belgian capital these days. It embodies a sense of belonging after months of confinement for its residents, as they want to share their stories and rediscover all the corners and secrets that make this city one of the most iconic in Europe.
The motto is the result of a series of measures by the Regional Government of Brussels to support the sectors of tourism and culture in the resumption of their activities, which resulted in a new marketing campaign. “The tourism, events and cultural sector are vital for our Region,” the minister-president of the Brussels-Capital Region Rudi Vervoort warned. While they are the source of many direct and indirect jobs and undeniably contribute to the international reach of Brussels, tourism, events and cultural operators are going through an unprecedented crisis.”
In the most cosmopolitan city in Europe and the second most cosmopolitan city in the world with its 183 nationalities, visit.brussels aimed to highlight the human power that brings together les bruxellois with people from all over the world. The message is that there are no Br(US)sels without them... without US.
“This campaign addresses progressively the local, neighbouring and wider markets. Our first aim is to raise awareness of all the possibilities existing in Brussels, the safety of the destination and to enhance the link between the residents and tourism opportunities,” said Elisabeth Van Ingelgem, director of the convention and association Bureau at visit.brussels.
In fact, for local tourism, MICE continues to grow in importance. Over the last 10 years, the number of overnight stays for business travel has increased by an average of 4.6% per year.
In addition, museums and attractions welcomed more than 5 million visitors in 2019. “For meetings, our goal is to work towards the last months of the year and take 2021 as a relaunch period, thanks to professional meetings of all kinds,” Van Ingelgem added.
Apart from the impact triggered by conventions and events, it is important to remember the central role that Brussels also plays in the world of international associations. Brussels ranks first in terms of seats of associations and this number is steadily growing, with around 14,000 direct jobs.
Asked about the mobilisation and structural resistance of this ecosystem, Van Ingelgem did not hold back with words of encouragement: “We have seen a very good degree of mobilisation among associations wishing to provide expertise in their fields but also to the large public. On our side, we have also kept all our resources with a new dedicated information website, consultation forms, liaise with all our partners and also echoed associations concerns to our regional authorities and EU discussions.”
Association activities in Brussels, whether based locally or imported by meetings, are essential for the local network and community. Therefore, visit.brussels has immediately acted by delivering information, guidance and creating a specific international associations layer for the recovery plan and overall strategy. Van Ingelgem added: “We have also created a new monthly meeting to update associations on the situation in Brussels – the Association Midweek Talk – and we have also listed the key needs for an exhaustive FAQ and for the training offers that visit.brussels shall be enhancing towards all sectors.”
Many associations, however, will be obliged to review their existing membership, financial or governance model. “History shows us that associations are a species that is able to survive and evolve with time,” Van Ingelgem said. “Therefore, we keep strong views about not only their future activities, but also in their own engagement in the recovery process.”
Finally, visit.brussels launched a support fund for congresses, meetings and B2B events open to various event planners that you can find on its website. The message is clear: Brussels is the ideal place to run your organisation.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.