Bruges could become Disneyland

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

This is the claim of the Mayor of the Belgian city of Bruges.

Bruges – chocolate making. One of the gret attractions of the city along with the architecture and the canal layout

In the original story as reported by The Brussels Times, Philip Pierins who is the city’s alderman responsible for tourism, is quoted as saying that the city won’t be doing any more advertising to encourage more people to visit Bruges. In addition they would prefer to have only two ships docking each day at the closest port to the city (from which coachloads of tourists head to the city) rather than the five that currently can happen. Five cruise ships will dock this week alone and six next.

Pierins also clarified where the withdrawal of advertising would take place. It would be in nearby cities like Brussels and Ghent.

At that stage there was no reference to Disney or even overseas tourists.

That story appeared on the 12th of June.

Local media followed the story by interviewing the mayor of Bruges, Dirk de fauw, who gave one of those soundbites beloved of journalists. He said something along the lines of not wanting Bruges to become like Disneyland.

The concern is about those who come for the day, sightsee, use the local facilities but spend little. Tourists can cost more than they contribute. Cruise and river ships can be amongst the worst as passengers tend to eat on board their vessels rather than in local restaurants and cafes and content themselves with just buying the occasional knick-knack. It is the tour operator and the cruise line that make the money and that is often spirited well away from the tourist areas.

The story spread, being picked up by national and international media. Embellished by interviews with locals, journalists sought to find those who supported the mayor and those who earned a living from tourists and, hence, didn’t want any reduction in visitor numbers.

Now Bruges will be linked with those other cities beset by tourist pollution like Barcelona and Venice.

The question for all of them is how do they manage to have their cake and still eat it.

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