Police in the Ardennes will carry out checks on holiday homes in the region during the holiday period, to make sure rules on gatherings are being observed.
The authorities have a register of some 2,000 holiday homes available for rent, over and above those owned by people living elsewhere. Already, some 85-90% of the available short-term lets are booked, and the rest are expected to be snapped up in the days to come.
According to one rental agency, Ardennes-Etape, this looks like being one of the busiest Christmas seasons ever. Another, Interhome, is looking forward to twice as much business as last year.
But the authorities see one cloud hanging over that good news for the sector: Covid-19.
The restrictions on gatherings this year are as strict as anything seen during the epidemic so far. The worry is that people might use the relative remoteness of a house in the Ardennes to circumvent the limits on who may gather.
But the Ardennes has no intention of becoming a refuge for scofflaws.
“The rule is very simple, when on holiday as at home,” said Xavier Derenne, spokesperson for Luxembourg province governor Olivier Schmitz. “That is: as a family you can receive one close contact. One. That’s all.”
The province has already made enquiries, and is prepared for any subterfuge renters may have planned.
“We know where the large holiday homes are, and we have been in contact with the landlords,” said Derenne.
“We will not allow different couples to get together, multiple families to stay together, or anyone to organise end-of-year parties with large groups.”
Even in the lead-up to the festive season, some groups have already been discovered. The modus operandi: they rent a house to be occupied by four people, which then manages to accommodate more.
But many rental houses are remotely situated. How are checks to take place?
“We have about 200 holiday homes on our territory, which are not located in a holiday park [which are currently closed],” said Philippe Bontemps (CDH), mayor of Durbuy.
“So we have extra patrols there. And often there is also a complaint from neighbours, if it is too busy, or if there are too many cars at the door. Then we will also have a look. Some of my residents want me to just close all the holiday homes, but I think that’s a step too far. If you come with your family, there is no problem.”
Ironically, the main disincentive to gather in the Ardennes this year may not be the risk of a police raid and fines all round. For those who do descend on the region, legally or otherwise, there just won’t be much to do. Especially not the area’s legendary cuisine.
“There will be a few places where you can buy fries or waffles, Mayor Bontemps said. “But all restaurants and cafes are of course closed.”
The Brussels Times