Belgians should spend holidays in Wallonia, says Tourism Minister
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Belgians should spend holidays in Wallonia, says Tourism Minister

The city of Dinant in Wallonia. Credit: Jiuguang Wang (CC Commons)

Wallonia’s government plans to focus special attention on tourism as it studies its options for relaunching the various economic sectors after the crisis caused by the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

“People do not realise it, but the economic weight of the tourism sector is considerable, with an added value of 4.1%,” said Walloon Minister for Tourism Valerie De Bue, to L’Echo on Saturday.

Tourism accounts for the equivalent of 60,000 full-time jobs, which is not much less than construction, she said. “There are 300 attractions in Wallonia,” De Bue recalled. “It’s a very varied sector that achieves a turnover of €7.9 billion per year, €3 billion in tourist spending and €13 million overnight stays.”

This year, the sector has been hard hit by confinement measures linked to the coronavirus and is at a standstill. Gross turnover losses amounted to €82 million in March and €89 million in April, the minister disclosed, noting that the sector “can already say goodbye to the 10% of the annual income usually earned during the Easter Holidays.”

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To avert a disaster, De Bue has just set up a working group that includes Tourism Division representatives and meets twice a week. “We need to do damage limitation and save what can be saved,” she said. Tourism promotion campaigns have to be reviewed since we are going to target local tourism.”

“Given the uncertainty and health conditions, Belgians will want to stay at home and consume local,” De Bue said, noting that a Dedicated Research survey has been launched to analyse Belgians’ expectations for their holidays.

“Therefore, we need to change habits and this recovery plan will be a springboard for the future of Walloon tourism,” De Bue added. “But the sector is also highly diversified, so it needs to be accompanied, stimulated, while a clear recovery message and a common identity for the entire sector need to be adopted.”

The message is focused on spending one’s holidays in Wallonia, she stressed.

The Brussels Times

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