BELGA/VERGULT

Significant fall in visitor numbers at West Flemish Great War memorial sites

This year there has been a significant fall in the number of visiting First World War cemeteries and memorials in the Westhoek area of West Flanders. According to figures released by the West Flemish tourist board Westtoer, during the first 10 months of this year 372,000 people visited the Westhoek. This is 21% down on the same period last year.     

Westtoer says that the fall in visitor numbers has not come as a surprise. 2018 was the last year of the Great War centenary commemorations and this was reflected by the high number of visitors to the area last year.   

Despite the fall in the number of visitors so far this year, the figures are still 18% higher that they were during the first 10 months of 2013, the year before the commemorations got under way.  

In the four years of the Great War centenary commemorations 2.8 million people visited the memorials and war cemeteries in the Westhoek.    

Next year Westtoer will launch its “Fenix” project, a series of events and exhibitions about the reconstruction of the towns and villages in the area of West Flanders that was devastated by the First World War. The project also includes walks and bicycle rides that pass by sites in the Westhoek that were rebuilt after the First World War. Some of these sites will be open, albeit temporarily to the general public for the first time.

The Fenix Project will run from March until November of next year. The Flemish Tourist Board is giving financial support to the project to the tune of 500,000 euro.