Flemish tourism eager to discourage "giant Chinese cruise ships"

The Flemish tourist board Toerisme Vlaanderen is keen to see tourism with added value.  Cruise ships that arrive here for a day or two don’t provide much added value says Peter De Wilde.  This week the board has invited a host of players to a conference in Bruges to consider how this can be achieved.

Flanders wants to avoid ending up like Venice or Amsterdam where mass tourism has an intrusive impact on everyday life.  The authorities are now looking at ways of keeping Flanders “a pleasant place where tourism is a means to create added value”.

More and more people can afford to travel and tourist numbers are set to increase in Flanders.

Peter De Wilde: “In coming years tourist numbers will increase.  It’s already busier in some places, but it’s still bearable for residents and they still see scope from growth.”

There are worries art cities like Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp will be inundated by tourists. Measures are being taken. Bruges has already introduced a halt to new hotels in the city centre to safeguard the economic viability of businesses, but also to keep a balance between residents and visitors. Tourist coaches are discouraged from entering the city centre, while restrictions are being placed on free guides that attract large groups.

Toerisme Vlaanderen makes a distinction between sea cruises and river cruises.  If participants don’t spend the night in the city or have time to explore the region, cruises don’t offer added value. River cruises with people taking their bike along, exploring an exhibition or a pavement café do provide added value.

Peter De Wilde: “The gigantic ships being built in China disturb the balance.  That’s not where we want to end up.”