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Conference organisers tell Brussels 'we want to help'

Visit Brussels reports no major conference cancellations following terror attacks, despite airport still closed
30/03/2016

Pictured: more than 30 people were killed when two bombs went off last Tuesday; one at Brussels Airport and another at a metro

Brussels' convention bureau says there have been no major conference cancellations since last week's terror attacks, which killed 35 people.


Visit Brussels says it is in hourly contact with event organisers to update them with information and to advise them on security levels. Measures such as extra police officers or bodyguards are being offered by the bureau.


Meanwhile Brussels airport remains closed and isn't likely to reopen until Friday. Visitors to Brussels have been using two satellite airports or arriving by train, or even flying into nearby Paris and Frankfurt.


Visit Brussels CEO Patrick Bontinck said: "For each event that is taking place there is an evaluation of the risk and according to the risk there's security that we can put in place (such as) extra police, bodyguards. The organiser can call us and we can put them in contact with different authorities.


"We are in contact with the congress centre to analyse the event and be sure all the security is guaranteed for the safety of the people."


The bureau has reinstated its online service for event organisers to use in order to access up-to-date information. It is opening a similar service from tomorrow for independent leisure travellers.


Bontinck said conference organisers had been determined to go ahead with their events.


"There's quite a bit of solidarity in the team, that we need to keep going and keep living. And that's the message the organisers are saying too, of 'We want to continue, we want to help. We will come to Brussels'. I think that's a good message," he said.


"Directly after the events everyone was trying hard to keep life going. It was really important for us to show resistance with what's been happening in Brussels. After the Paris attack a lot of things closed. Now everything is opened in Brussels and everyone wants to keep it open and say 'we're not going to let terrorists close the city'."

  • Martin Ellis of Team Umbrella 04/04/2016

    In November, in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, I visited Belgium with a group of industry colleagues. This was arranged a while back, before recent events gave this delightful country a somewhat bad press.
    Was I worried about travelling to Belgium when Brussels was on high alert?
    At a time when the world’s press would have you believe it was about to be twinned with Beirut from 1982, or Uganda in the 1970s?
    I know, it’s easy to scoff, but let me put this question to you: how would you respond if an overseas visitor had cancelled their visit to Oxford in August 2011, because of the riots that took place in London that month?
    And they were “real” riots, not a (well prepared for) terrorist threat. I was therefore astonished to learn that people within my own industry not only stopping travel to Belgium, but stating that they had placed a blanket ban on staff travelling to Europe! For those frightened people I have some sad news – you’re already in Europe.
    What really does infuriate me is when people in the travel and tourism industry don’t seem to know that Brussels is only one of many cities in Belgium.
    You may have heard the old joke about foreigners having no concept of England, and asking “Oh you’re from England. You must know my friend, he’s English too?” The less amusing version is “Oh I wouldn't go to Antwerp/Bruges/Ghent/Liege/Ostend/Mons (delete as appropriate)… you know Brussels is on terror alert?” At a time when the Belgians need our help in supporting their tourism trade, I think it’s disgraceful that anyone in that same industry should claim that Belgium is not a safe country.
    At this moment in time Brussels may well be one of the safest cities in the world; as for Bruges, your biggest concern would be to avoid the extremely strong beers in too great a quantity, and in avoiding the bicycles if you do misjudge your beer intake!
    I’ll finish with a few questions to those who have “blocked all travel to Europe”:
    1) Do you advise your customers not to travel to Europe, or just your employees? If it’s the former, how do you countenance that? Presumably it’s a case of “I wouldn't go there, but you’ll be fine…”.
    2) If your clients ask you about travelling to Portugal, or Norway, do you advise them against “travelling to Europe”?
    3) What will you do if (Heaven forbid) there were a terrorist incident in the UK? One assumes you wouldn't allow your staff to travel within the country that they live and work in…
    4) In light of the news that there have been seven terrorist threats thwarted in the UK this year, how would you feel if your business depended on overseas visitors, who then decided that the UK wasn't safe to travel to?
    5) Do you advise your customers not to travel to Cape Town? Surely, after what’s happened with Egypt and Tunisia, you can’t feel it’s safe in Africa?


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