Mumbai: Visit Brussels, the official tourist agency, held a networking evening in Mumbai recently. The event was attended by Peter Huyghebaert, Consul General, Kingdom of Belgium, Anousjka Schmidt, Foreign Markets Manager, Visit Brussels, Pieter Callebaut, Sales & Promotion, Business Developer Leisure, Visit Brussels, Joseph Fernandes, General Manager – India, Aviareps and Ellona Pereira, Account Director, Visit Brussels (Aviareps).

Brussels, the capital of 500 million Europeans, the ‘world city’ where 180 different nationalities mingle, is also a sought after tourist destination which recorded 6.67 million overnight stays in 2017, up 21 per cent compared to 2016. Top source markets apart from Belgium which contributes 20 per cent of all visitor traffic are France, Spain, UK, Germany and USA. Closely following are Italy and Netherlands.

“We have been in this market for the last five years. After understanding India, its culture and specific travel interests, we decided we need someone on the ground full-time to represent us. That is how we appointed Aviareps at the start of 2018,” said Schmidt while talking to media. “Now our trade partners in India have a local point of contact to help them sell Brussels to outbound travellers.”

Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde were in India on a State visit in November 2017. The surrounding media hype helped promote the destination like never before.

“An event like this is important to educate the travel trade. We have 11 offices in Europe and abroad to work closely with travel trade partners,” Schmidt informed. “Our Christmas market is becoming very popular in India.”

The terror attacks in Brussels in March 2016 impacted tourism adversely but Indian travellers did not cancel like the rest. Tourist arrival numbers from India have remained rather steady over the years. “India market was very supportive as you are also a victim of terrorism and understand so well that one attack does not mean the whole country is unsafe.”

In 2017, India, ranked 25th as a source market, providing 53,000 overnight stays of which 46 per cent was leisure travellers and 54 per cent business. “We measure only overnight stays in Brussels. Many more tourists do day tours and go elsewhere for the night. Our main goal is to get more and more people to spend at least one night in Brussels.”

On January 7, Brussels Airlines will discontinue its direct flight from Brussels to Mumbai. Earlier Jet Airways stopped its direct flight and shut down the hub in Brussels after the terror attack. Indian travellers have relied greatly on GCC airlines to fly to Brussels post 2016.

Brussels has so much to offer. Museums, over 80 of them – Belgian Comic Strip Center, Musical Instruments Museum, Royal Museum of Arts and History, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels Museum of Chocolate and Cocoa and many more, were visited by 4.21 million tourists last year. Must see sites include Atomium, Mannekin Piss, Mini Europe and Grand Palace, among many others. Over 2000 restaurants, bars and lounges ensure an amazing night life. The city hosts about 18,000 cultural events a year. It is a compact city, with hotels and attractions very close by at walking distance. Brussels has 206 hotels offering 18,141 rooms.

“We are a World Heritage City, so people who love history and heritage, art and culture, gastronomy, will like it very much. Visit Brussels is focusing on the upscale market to whom these experiences will appeal.”

In Brussels and surrounding areas, there are 204 MICE venues including theatres & concert halls, conference & exhibition centres, historical buildings and museums, modern & contemporary buildings and cultural or sports centres. Twenty venues can take more than 1000 pax. The most sought-after venue is the iconic Atomium.

Thanks to its strategic location, Brussels Airport offers one of the most convenient stopovers for tourists to Europe or those travelling from North America to Asia and vice-versa. Many tourists land in Brussels and do a quick tour of the city and continue their onward journey to Amsterdam, Paris or Berlin. “We cannot and don’t want to be a mono-destination,” says Schmidt. “We are perfectly fine with people planning Brussels along with Paris or Amsterdam. But Belgium as a country can be a mono destination, there is so much to see for at least 10 days.”

Visit Brussels will focus on conducting trade trainings in 2019 so that all partners are well-versed to sell the destination. The updated Sales Guide 2019 and Let’s Meet (MICE) Guide available at are perfect reference materials for travel trade professionals.

Categories: Events India