Mechelen: en route to a flourishing destination

The number of visitors to Mechelen is growing year on year. The people of Mechelen – the Mechelaars – see visitors in a positive light. Visitors foster in them a sense of pride in their city.

Between 2012 and 2018 the number of arrivals grew by 40%.  Strong growth translates into a positive evolution of economic indicators and of the tourist offering. Mechelen, Mechelaars and employers are all the better for the growing number of visitors to the city. Moreover, there is still room for growth in Mechelen. 

Alongside these positive factors for Mechelen is a global awareness that tourism can also impact negatively on a destination. Once an imbalance between income and expenditure makes itself felt on residents, visitors and the environment, a positive story can soon become a negative one. Think of the tourist challenges facing large European cities. 

Given the strong growth of tourism in Mechelen, bolstered by its positive attitude to visitors, the city is at an important juncture when it comes to maintaining this balance and continuing to grow in a positive manner.  

Visit Mechelen combines the strengths of the Mechelaars - their hospitality and pride in their city - with the growing interest within the tourist sector to start up a business or expand in Mechelen as part of the strategy of making the city a thriving destination.

Strategic vision document

In 2018/19 Visit Mechelen was the only city to sign up for the transformative ‘Travel to Tomorrow’ project as a pilot partner of Visit Flanders. This made Mechelen a bold pioneer and a reference point in Flanders for sustainable growth in the tourist industry. 

This pioneering decision is in line with the City of Mechelen’s positioning and sustainable ambitions. 

During open workshops (which included Mechelen municipal departments, residents, attractions, entrepreneurs and policy-makers plus international collaborators), Visit Mechelen reflected long and hard on what the tourism of the future might look like in and for Mechelen.

Drawing on the discussions and ideas generated by the workshops and consultations as well as on progressive insights into how tourism can grow sustainably, Visit Mechelen produced the ‘Sustainable leadership for tourism in and for Mechelen. En route to a flourishing destination, vision document 2020-26’. This document is the result of an intense dialogue between all those involved in the tourist sector. 

A destination flourishes when visitors, residents, employers and the destination bolster rather than undermine each other.  Flourishing goes a step further than sustainable growth.   

Action plan

To turn this vision document into action, Visit Mechelen – in dialogue with all the other parties – is working on an action plan for 2020-26. That action plan will comprise projects that contribute to the spearheads of circular entrepreneurship, mobility and reducing child poverty. KPIs are being drawn up based on the SDGs.