Published on Friday, January 8, 2016
Visit Brussels has announced plans for a quirky campaign to reassure tourists following the 'lockdown' and terror scares at the end of last year.
The popular city-break destination was on virtual lockdown for nearly a week in November amid security fears following the November 13 attacks in Paris and the subsequent arrests of terror suspects in raids in Brussels suburbs.
Extra police and military were drafted in to patrol the streets, public transport was suspended and events cancelled.
Since the lockdown, and further scares over the New Year, visitor numbers have fallen drastically.
Although it could not provide figures, the city's tourist board admitted a 'noticeable decline' in the number of foreign visitors, and said this 'has serious consequences, particularly for players in the tourist industry'.
It hopes a new campaign, #CallBrussels, will help woo visitors back.
"Over the past few weeks, the international media has portrayed Brussels as a war zone that tourists would do well to avoid," said a statement from Visit Brussels.
"This has obviously had dire consequences for the tourist sector, which is currently experiencing a noticeable decline.
"Yet life goes on, and the European capital is as packed as ever with tourist and cultural activities. With the international #CallBrussels campaign, visit.brussels aims to convince tourists intending to visit Brussels that there is no reason to revise their travel plans."
Aimed at its major markets, including the UK, the campaign will see telephone boxes positioned in three landmarks - the Mont des Arts, the Place Flagey and the Place Communale in Molenbeek.
Foreign tourists can call the telephone boxes, via a special website - www.call.brussels - and passers-by will be able to answer their questions.
Webcams will film the surroundings and the interactions will be broadcast live on the website www.call.brussels.
Video clips shot during the action will be shown via social media and through the purchasing of media space on websites in key markets.
"The people of Brussels are proud of their region and are no doubt eager to re-establish the truth regarding the situation in Brussels," said Visit Brussels.
"Through this action, visit.brussels gives them the possibility of expressing themselves on the topic and of revitalizing the economic life of Brussels by persuading tourists not to cancel their trip to the city."
This campaign is in partnership with regional tourist offices, Toerisme Vlaanderen and Wallonie-Bruxelles Tourisme, which will also relay the whole campaign via their international networks.
* Today, Belgian prosecutors said they believe they might have found an apartment in Brussels where one of the jihadists hid after the Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed.
According to reports, police have found traces of explosives and a fingerprint of fugitive Salah Abdeslam in the apartment in the Schaerbeek district.
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