Five transformations for entrepreneurs Flourishing places are created together

This is an article from the magazine ‘Travel to Tomorrow‘.


We must start thinking differently and involve the visitor, according to entrepreneurs. The visitor’s experience is key. The large, disruptive players within the tourist landscape have understood this. Their offer centres around the client. Airbnb facilitates a local experience for the tourist. i.e. staying at home with the residents and/ or residents who provide their visitors with a tour around their place. Uber facilitates transparent and efficient passenger transport. What else can we learn from these new players? The new earning models focus on a personalised approach; a customised offer with room for flexibility. These things are popping up in the tourism landscape and their importance is increasing.

“I am a huge fan of the atmosphere in Hotel Bitter&Zoet! And the way in which they integrate the history of a place into their company. The hotel encompasses stunning, historical buildings called ‘Toewijding’ (Dedication), ‘Bitter en Zoet’ (Sweet and Sour), ‘Plichtgevoel’ (Sense of Duty) and ‘Vertrouw op God’ (Faith in God). The premises are connected with one another by a modern construction. Hotel Bitter&Zoet is a care-hotel without the hospital vibe that is often associated with that type of setting. The managers are genuine champions of hospitality: welcoming, friendly, caring, genuine and transparent for each guest. They are also committed business people who are devoted to their company and who are very conscious of environmental issues. They apply themselves to sustainability and the ‘short chain’ in a very nononsense manner. They work together with many small entrepreneurs in the vicinity. They also take up an active role in Veenhuizen, a rather isolated village community. The hotel, for example, bakes bread for its own guests, but residents can also buy bread and cakes in the hotel. And they take initiative! This summer, for example, they held a series of heritage dinners to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of Colonies of Benevolence. They thus made a connection between a specific place, historical menus and contemporary gastronomy.” — Geertje Bernaerts, Karvansera


Business owners play with new concepts. Hospitality instead of tourism providers. Welcoming instead of providing. Words that have previously been tinged with economic considerations are currently shifting. As a result, the characteristic passion and inspiration of tourism is becoming more apparent.

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How can tourism make connections? How can different working areas come together? What stimulates this crosspollination? Multi-functionality and rejuvenation are often used in this context. It’s happening at various places already. A heritage location provides a boost for social employment while the guests can enjoy a unique setting. International visitors experience something extra when they attend a meeting or conference at a spectacular location. Entrepreneurs work together with social organisations on realising the right of everyone to have a holiday. And local residents can also use the hotel gym or swimming pool. These are all examples, but many more options are out there. “We must not stay in our little corners”, say the business owners.

“Another perspective on travel and tourism? That’s what I found with tour operator Joker, when I was looking for work in the tourism sector in the nineties. Both the workplace itself and the range of travel options prioritised sustainability, experiences and people (colleagues, local entrepreneurs at the destination and the tourist). Being encouraged, remaining amazed and always entering into dialogue were the key values. The inspirational leader, Bob Elsen thus created a place where everybody felt good. And that includes the tourist, because the updated travel concept which is everevolving, is a very appealing prospect.” — Griet Geudens, VISITFLANDERS


A successful entrepreneur sees and reflects on what is going on in society. He looks further than his company or sector. The sharing economy, whereby usage is preferred over ownership, is flourishing. These are interesting developments for entrepreneurs in the sector. Buying light, for example, instead of lamps. The supplier is thus motivated to provide equipment that will last a long time and can be repaired and you have an inherently sustainable system. Innovation can correspond with uncertainty and anxiety. It takes resilience and courage to seize change as an opportunity and a chance to learn. An open mind to experiment, embrace change, and to permit complexity and uncertainty; this requires a curious, open and flexible attitude, also from entrepreneurs.

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“I love the Jo&Joe initiative by Accorhotels. Major entrepreneurs that dare to listen to their future audience; that gives me hope. Together with young students, a new concept has been developed and placed in the market. The concept has been customised for and by travellers and residents. It has been designed in order to simplify encounters and encourage good cohabitation. There are common spaces both indoors and out. Townsters and Tripsters can find one another there. Whether you’re travelling on your own, as a couple, as a family or as a group, everyone can find something to suit them. It makes me think of a similar initiative in the Bruges Hostel De Snuffel. This also prioritises encounters between travellers and locals.“ — Jeroen Marijsse, Network Everyone Deserves a Holiday


In order to explore and shape the future, entrepreneurs also need spaces where they can meet one another and people from other sectors. They would like to exchange experiences and expertise, share insights and collaborate across the regular sector boundaries. They want to work with the government, education, professional organisations and federations, users and visitors. Uniting expertise is the start of finding solutions. Daring to not know and, finding out starting on this basis, is the first step towards an appealing future.

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