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The Atomium loses the ball

One of the most famous monuments in the Belgian capital is threatened by the covid-19. This situation sums up the Brussels tourism crisis.

Max HELLEFF

One of the most famous monuments in the Belgian capital is threatened by the covid-19. This situation sums up the Brussels tourism crisis.

From our correspondent Max HELLEFF (Brussels) – One of the most emblematic monuments of Brussels is today threatened by the covid-19: the Atomium which had to close its doors due to the pandemic is heading towards a deficit of some 3 million euros for the fiscal year 2020 when in February, a bonus of 800,000 euros was validated.

Born with the 1958 World Fair, the Atomium is in Brussels what the Eiffel Tower is in Paris. Recent renovations have restored it to its former glory. But the fact remains that this monument lives on its own income and is therefore extremely sensitive to fluctuations in tourist activity today at a standstill. “If the Atomium has managed to recover from the aftermath of the 2015 lockdown and the 2016 attacks, the impact of the covid-19 is beyond measure compared to other negative events,” said the association, which manages the premises. She asked to be able to resume “normal” operations by July 1, or even June 1, to avoid the disaster.

A month ago, the same language was used with regard to the Hotel Métropole, the only five-star hotel in the capital not to belong to a large international group. Since then, the restaurants The woodcock and Good evening Clara have declared bankruptcy. Already weakened by the work of the pedestrian and the attacks of March 22, 2016, these two establishments have been floundering for some time already. The health crisis has accelerated the movement, explains in substance The Echo.

The Atomium, the Metropolis, the Woodcock … so many major tourist places in the capital to live mainly from the passage of foreigners. But this source of income has dried up for the moment. Although the confinement rules have been relaxed in recent weeks by the National Security Council, the country’s borders remain closed. And the authorities’ message for the moment is to let the Belgians understand that they could spend their summer holidays in the country and that tourists from outside will have to wait before returning to set foot on the cobblestones of the Grand-Place or North Sea beaches.

Is it tenable when several European states are betting on the return of mass tourism? The Atomium estimates that Belgians represent 30% of visitors to its steel spheres and is counting more than ever on their membership.

Hotels and restaurants are getting impatient

It is not certain that this cockroach reflex will be enough to relieve the finances of the work imagined by the engineer André Waterkeyn and erected by the architects André and Jean Polak. Nor those of the Brussels catering industry which impatiently awaits the reopening. But nothing is planned before June 8 at the earliest. By then, pressure from the sector should increase on the Wilmès government, which is sinking day by day into unpopularity. On Saturday, the Prime Minister was received coldly at Saint-Pierre hospital in Brussels by the nursing staff who turned their back on her. On Monday, it was political Flanders which fled to the aid of the owners of the second residences on the Coast and the Ardennes, still denied access due to confinement.

According to the Comeos trade federation, lBelgian hotel and restaurant industry is currently losing 47 million euros a day in turnover. The total loss could reach 4 billion euros if the reopening does not take place on June 8. In Brussels, 20,000 people are employed in accommodation or catering. 94% are currently temporarily unemployed. One in five hotels, restaurants and cafes could disappear.


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