Kortrijk deploys extra stewards to deal with “arrogant” French visitors

Only around 10km from the border and adjacent to France’s 4th largest metropolis (Lille/Roubaix/Tourcoing), Kortrijk has always been popular with visitors from across the border. However, with many shops in France still closed and outdoor areas of hospitality businesses open in Belgium, the idea of making the trip of at the most a couple of dozen kilometres across the border to Kortrijk has become all the more attractive to those living in Lille, Tourcoing, Roubaix and the surrounding towns and villages in Northern France. 

You might say that this is good news for traders and restaurant and bar-owners in the West Flemish city. However, not all the French visitors respect the coronavirus measures such as the wearing of masks inside shops and social distancing. This has led to conflicts arising between store staff and what a store detective at one shop describes as “arrogant French” customers. In order to address this the city authorities in Kortrijk will deploy extra stewards from Monday 17 May.

In France bars and restaurants are still completely closed and only stores selling goods deemed to be essential are open. This makes a trip across the border an even more attractive proposition than it would otherwise be for the more than 1 million French people that live less than half an hour’s drive from Kortrijk. Alderman Arne Vandendriessche told the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ that “Let it be clear that they are very welcome. But they should observe the corona measures just like the rest of us”.

This seems to be an issue in Kortrijk. Mr Vandendriessche went on to say that he had seen numerous complaints from traders in a Whatsapp group about the behaviour of French visitors. “Some of the French visitors are very arrogant and refuse to follow the rules”.

“They don’t wear their face covering correctly, sit around tables in groups that are too large (4 people per table is the maximum) or refuse to take a trolley or basket. This creates difficulties for our traders. Of course, they are glad that the customers have come because they want to make up for lost turnover. But for their own safety and for that of other customers it is important that everyone observes the rules”.

From Monday 17 May an extra 10 stewards will be employed in Kortrijk. They won’t only be placed at the entrance points to the pedestrianised shopping area but will move around the city centre to keep an eye on things. “If traders or the owners of hospitality outlets feel that they are losing control of a situation they can always enlist the help of the stewards”, Mr Vandendriessche said. 

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