Flourishing villages

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Every year more and more tourists visit our region from Belgium and abroad. Between 2012 and 2018, the number of visitors to Mechelen rose by 40%. This trend continued in 2019; in 2020 growth was abruptly interrupted by the coronavirus. 

In the meantime Visit Mechelen has been going all out to ensure that Mechelen really can justify the title of ‘flourishing destination’. In collaboration with Mechelen’s six villages, at the end of 2020 we launched what we dubbed a ‘flourishing route’.

Flourishing villages

Interest in discovering Mechelen’s blue and green spaces is also growing year on year. The region became particularly popular during the corona pandemic, accelerating the attraction of both water and greenery.  

To achieve and develop a flourishing destination with and in the villages, Visit Mechelen first wanted to familiarize itself with the USPs of each village.  

Working with the locals

With a view to defining the DNA, and in particular the strengths, of the villages, Visit Mechelen developed a digital co-creation toolkit based on the principles of appreciative inquiry (AI).   

Working at grassroots level with 77 residents from Muizen, Hombeek, Leest, Battel, Heffen and Walem, Visit Mechelen identified the individual character and characteristic traits of each of the six villages: what makes the village the village it is? 

To find an answer to that question, in December 2020 we organized six digital sessions. We asked the participants to share a special story that gives them a connection with the village. We also asked them about their dreams for their village.

Rich pickings

We analyzed the many stories and dreams and together extracted a shortlist of the villages’ strengths.

A total of 314 actions were also put forward.  Ninety of these are practicable in the mid to long term with support from Visit Mechelen’s New Product Development and Communication arms. 

So we ended these six sessions with a bumper harvest! We had gathered a wealth of information about the villages, a rich vocabulary, ideas for actions and, last but not least, new and worthwhile links with the residents.   

Carrying out this type of research was not without its challenges. So the numerous positive reactions received from participants at the end about the innovative digital and sustainable approach were very pleasing. 

What next?

Working with 34 residents, Visit Mechelen has agreed to create and market a series of new products by April/May 2021, with the actual production work beginning in January 2021.

In 2021 Tourism Mechelen (in collaboration with the Visit Mechelen and Meet in Mechelen brands) will also be producing a new strategic plan, incorporating the research findings described above and outlining where the project will go from here.    

Contact us

If you are interested in coming on board, or if you have questions about the project, please contact els.vanzele@mechelen.be.