Brussels economy and tourism set out to conquer the hearts and taste buds of Parisians
From 22 until 24 September 2021, a delegation of the Brussels-Capital Region travelled to Paris on the occasion of the 15th Brussels Days. A major event to raise the political, economic and tourism profile of Brussels on the international scene.
Each year, the Brussels-Capital Region embarks on a journey to conquer the hearts (and taste buds) of the inhabitants of a large city as part of the annual Brussels Days, which are organised by hub.brussels, visit.brussels and Brussels International. After Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam and New York, this year’s Brussels Days were held in Paris, from 22 to 24 September. This mission – the first in a long time – was all the more important, in view of the post-COVID recovery of the Brussels economy and tourism and the much-needed support to local businesses.
The delegation of Brussels tourism and economic stakeholders was led by Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the BCR, Sven Gatz, Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for Finance, Budget, and the Image of Brussels, and Pascal Smet, State Secretary responsible for European & International Relations and Foreign Trade.
Positioning Brussels on the international scene
The Brussels Days aim to position the Brussels-Capital Region on the international scene, by creating networking opportunities at the highest level with businesses and local authorities, and by promoting the capital region’s economic dynamism, know-how, creators, rich cultural offering, and cuisine, as well as its tourism and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions) potential.
Over a three-day period, Brussels showed off all its assets in Paris during various conferences, political meetings, field visits and cultural representations. After the sanitary crisis, which lasted several months, the Brussels Days were also an excellent opportunity to boost the recovery effort.
France, the third largest partner for Brussels exports
There is a reason why the City of Light was chosen to host the Brussels Days for the second time since this event was launched.
France is a very important market for Brussels, after all. It is the leading international market for tourists to the BCR. French tourists account for 11% of overnight stays in our capital, making up the largest group of tourists in the city. And the situation was no different during the pandemic, which had an unprecedented impact on the hospitality industry.
Economically speaking, France is the third largest export country for Brussels entrepreneurs, accounting for approximately 12% of total goods exports. Each year, some 2 billion euros worth of French goods are also imported into Brussels.
Renewal of the cooperation agreement with the Region of Île-de-France
The Brussels Days were also an opportunity for political representatives of the Region of Île-de-France, of the Metropolis of Greater Paris and the City of Paris to meet with Brussels representatives.
In the margin of these meetings, the Region of Île-de-France and the BCR renewed and extended the cooperation agreement, that has bound them for 19 years already. This was an important event, with Valérie Pécresse signing the agreement in her capacity as President of the Region of Île-de-France.
The Brussels delegation also met with elected officials from the Metropolis of Greater Paris. This young metropolis is an interesting source of inspiration as Brussels seeks to establish a greater Brussels metropolitan area, although not much progress has been made on this initiative since the last State Reform. The Metropolis is also a potential partner within the global Metropolis network, of which Brussels State Secretary Pascal Smet holds the Vice-Presidency for Europe.
Pascal Smet also visited the Paris City Hall, where he spoke with Hermano Sanches Ruivo, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of Europe. The aim is to foster cooperation between the BCR and the City of Paris, whether within networks of which the two entities are members or bilaterally.
A showcase for Brussels entrepreneurship
The inauguration of the Ecobuild pavilion at the Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris highlighted six major Brussels projects. The Brussels Region is a pioneer in the field of the energy performance of buildings and circular construction is clearly booming in the region.
The French were also introduced to some of the many Brussels companies that operate in the audiovisual industry, with screen.brussels organising a conference on digital solutions for the creative and cultural industries.
Meetings to promote tourism
The Brussels Days programme also provided for numerous networking opportunities between tourism and cultural stakeholders. The latter met at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador to France, for a lunch-workshop positioning Brussels as an international centre for hybrid events. A poster campaign aimed at promoting Brussels as a business destination is also currently underway in Paris.
(Food) culture in the spotlight
On the cultural side, KANAL – Centre Pompidou hosted several performances in public space, near Centre Pompidou. The Brussels cultural centre was thus able to fully demonstrate its role as a cultural crossroads in the city, with Benjamin Vandewalle’s Studio Cité, MARS, a vocal creation by the YouYou Group produced the artist Myriam Van Imschoot, and the performances of the choreographer Ula Sickle and visual/video artist Guy Woueté.
Brussels State Secretary Pascal Smet also met with Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. The BCR is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites and plenty of other Brussels gems that are worthy of this status. Our Region is also a candidate for membership of the World Heritage Committee.
Brussels cuisine refused to be outdone by French cuisine, as guests were able to discover first-hand during a networking evening at the Monnaie de Paris, where Brussels chefs Yves Mattagne (two Michelin stars) and Mallory Gabsi, who was recently crowned semi-finalist of Top Chef 2020, demonstrated their culinary prowess. Philippe Geluck, the designer of the famous The Cat, whose exhibition of statues along the Champs-Élysées drew crowds in the summer of 2021, also attended the event. Ever the humourist, he took advantage of the occasion to announce that work on the future Musée du Chat, in the heart of Brussels, had started… in advance!
Urban development, mobility and education
Minister Sven Gatz had the opportunity to visit the large-scale Docks redevelopment project. This brand-new, 100-hectare eco-neighbourhood in Saint-Ouen, on the banks of the River Seine, is home, among others, to the new seat of the Region of the Île-de-France. He also visited the construction site, as part of the extension of line 11 of the Paris Metro to the east of the Île-de-France. As the minister responsible for Dutch-language education in the BCR, Sven Gatz also visited the Ecole in Rosny-sous-Bois. There he met young people from atypical backgrounds and without a (recognised) diploma, who were given the opportunity to learn a trade through intensive contacts with the business world. An interesting and deeply moving encounter.