Tourism subsidies in Wallonia: Mons and Hainaut draw envy

  • The strategic note adopted by the government is very generous to Hainaut. The Ardennes region is worried.
  • The minister of tourism,however, is sticking with his decisions: “Waterloo, Francorchamps and Mons are the priority projects for 2015.”

 

In Dinant on Tuesday, the Walloon minister of tourism, Paul Furlan (PS), launched the tourist season in the south of the country against a backdrop of controversy. The government has adopted a roadmap called “Destination 2015” and, more recently, a strategic note that states clear goals and choices (quality hospitality, green tourism, business and promotion of cities). These are raising a variety of comments among the professionals.

 

At times, tongues loosen. “There is a place for urban tourism in Liège, Namur, Mons or Tournai, but we shouldn’t hope to transform areas that are relatively unattractive into tourism capitals by throwing tens of thousands of euros at them.” René Collins (CDH), provincial deputy to the Luxemburg tourist office, in particular takes exception, “not starting by investing in Bastogne, Dinant or Spa is not a serious approach.”

 

The Walloon government’s strategic note targets the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years, with a broader perspective reaching to 2017. “We have identified three major sites that are already known outside of our borders. These are Francorchamps, Waterloo and Mons 2015. I would add the Eau d’Heure lakes, still in process,” explains Paul Furlan. “We wanted a clear strategy. Francorchamps has been well supported. Waterloo is still being worked on. Mons was added because after 2015, it will be too late. I refuse to talk about favoritism. Hainaut is being updated. Provinces like Namur or Luxemburg have received help and developed more quickly than the others. To each its turn!”

 

The means available are limited by definition. The financing of the ten projects will be addressed for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years (€17 million). The funds will come out of the regional center for community aid (CRAC). Half of them are Hainaut projects, a youth hostel in Charleroi, an equestrian center in Haute-Sambre, the cultural center of Thuin, Maison Losseau in Mons and the Eau d’Heure lakes.

 

The Walloon government also listed about forty strategic investments (at least €250,000) over the next few years. About €55 million, one of three projects are for Hainaut. These include the Montaigu Priory in Morlanwelz, the Mons belfry site or enhancements to the Thimougies mill.

 

According to Paul Furlan, the funding of €6 million and credits from the general tourism commissioner (CGT) over the next few fiscal years should take care of these projects with the understanding that some are more advanced or urgent than others.

 

The opposing Reform Movement remarked “Beware! Using CRAC alternative funding and CGT provisions is bad management.” 

 

“Overall,” say specialists in the matter, “57% of tourism subsidies over the next few years will be assigned to Hainaut. The city of Mons alone will benefit from €8 million of the available €70 million.”

 

“Mons 2015, European cultural capital, is clearly the priority at this time,” assents Paul Furlan. “The project has reached maturity. It’s now or never, just like Waterloo.”

 

This does little to comfort the Ardennes. “Apart a sense of injustice, the tourism directors in the provinces of Liège, Namur and Luxemburg are stating that the Walloon directors are in error,” emphasizes René Collin. “The best Walloon ambassador is the Ardennes. In the larger sense, it’s the only green space in the midst of a densely populated area. The Ardennes brand, created along with the Grand Duchy and Champagne-Ardenne received too little support.”

 

ERIC BURGRAFF

 

ERIC DEFFET

 

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