Visit Flanders Seeks to Attract Groups Through Innovation
After a successful innovation festival in 2018, all systems were a go for a sequel in 2020. Well, it goes without saying those plans were delayed. Surely by April 2021, the show would go on. COVID-19 wasn’t consulted, but fortunately, the folks at Visit Flanders were. Rather than canceling the And& Festival in Leuven, show organizers worked with the tourism bureau to develop a platform for our times.
And thus, a successful virtual event with some on-site activations showcasing Flanders and Belgium as a destination was born. The model, born out of necessity, proved to be a forward-thinking tool.
International travel for vaccinated individuals has just been allowed, and indeed Flanders did not allow gatherings of more than 2,000 attendees until July 1. Yet the destination has managed to market itself, continuing to focus on two of its strengths — innovation and personal care — that are now at premiums for meeting planners.
Staying top-of-mind has been and will continue to be critical as the future of business travel takes shape. We know leisure travel has skyrocketed past its professional counterpart for now, but the confidence that face-to-face events will be a driving force has buoyed efforts of Visit Flanders and other international destinations eager to welcome back American attendees and global organizations.
The team at Visit Flanders has made a clear decision to be among the leaders in health and safety. Test events were held with attendees in the hundreds, rather than the thousands, and were conducted in lockstep with the science and medical community (groups that often choose Flanders for international congresses).
The CVB powered the creation of two ground-breaking instruments, which garnered interest from industry professionals around the world: CERM and CIRM.
- COVID Event Risk Model, or CERM, has organizers answer a questionnaire to gain insight and predict potential dangers, allowing for proactive adaptations prior to attendee arrival.
- COVID Infrastructure Risk Model, or CIRM, analyzes every detail a venue must take into account for a show. Again, the tool gives suppliers a chance to be better prepared for challenges and unknowns, including how widespread the Delta variant will be and how just the fear of it could alter behavior.
An ebook outlining safety measures is also available on the CVB’s website.
“Our whole strategy is about traveling to tomorrow but in balance for everyone that's involved in the process,” explained Milo Vergucht, who serves the international association market for Visit Flanders. “We want to keep the authenticity of the destination, and the quality of life for the residents, but also the quality of the visitor experience for the tourists.”