How can meetings between residents and visitors contribute towards creating flourishing destinations?

Visit Mechelen, Tourism Kempen and Tourism Meetjesland, pioneers in Travelling to Tomorrow, completed an intensive learning project and trials in 2019 with the aim of realising the Travelling to Tomorrow and flourishing destinations concepts in their regions and cities. They started by expanding the local network around tourism with residents, businesses and policy. A few experimental projects were also set up in the region and city.

During a workshop at the Travelling to Tomorrow Summit, these pioneers recounted their experiences and explained what had been set in motion by the Trials (Proeftuin) in terms of services, organisation, networks, city and region.  The participants in this workshop chatted to the pioneers about the lessons that had been learned and information was exchanged on the steps that had already been taken towards Travelling to Tomorrow.

Visit Mechelen

The city of Mechelen has a strong tradition when it comes to involving residents in various policy domains. Visit Mechelen revisited this approach last year and organised two workshops with residents, businesses and tourism providers with the aim of shaping tourism policy with the community. The city’s policy lines of enterprise, mobility and poverty served as the starting points for the Travelling to Tomorrow workshops. The output from these workshops, in turn, provided the foundations for the tourism vision document, a supplement to the current strategic plan and the departure point for the new strategic plan 2021-2026.


Tourism Province Antwerp, region Kempen created a new strategic plan 2020-2025, based on the 3 pillars of a high-impact (travel) experience. These encompass the interaction between the location, activities and meetings. Over the coming years, they will focus on strengthening the Kempen ‘feeling’, proud residents of Kempen, the DNA and uniqueness and, simultaneously, the Kempen connections. Tourism Kempen will take a leading role in this and will work with tourism partners and residents in the quest to identify the Kempen ‘feeling’ so it can be retained and reinforced.

When drawing up the strategic plan for Tourism Kempen, the experiences gained during the Trials played an important role.

Meetjesland (with Scottish partner Angus Region)

Tourism Meetjesland kicked off a number of initiatives under the umbrella of Travelling to Tomorrow.

  • There was a new approach to training local ambassadors and hosts/business people, which worked on the basis of the participants ‘passion’.
  • The tourism advisory board for Sint-Laureins, led by chairman Willy Van Zandweghe, was eager to take part in the Meetjesland Trial. As a result of conversations during the Travelling to Tomorrow workshops in Sint-Laureins, the idea of working around quiet spaces was further developed.
  • In the past, tourism policy in the Angus Region (Scotland) has been shaped by policy creators, businesses or local authorities. Now, experiments are focussing on a new approach that allows everyone from the community to take part and take the initiative in areas about which they feel passionately. There is clearly enormous potential for bringing about sustainable changes in this way and ensuring there are initiatives from the bottom-up.

Read more about initiatives in Meetjesland.

The projects were proposed by following pioneers:

Erik Hennes

Erik Hennes, regional coordinator Meetjesland
“For me, Travelling to Tomorrow means discovering the local enthusiasm and pride people have for their home and the surrounding area. This is also a new approach; starting on the basis of the local dynamic and enthusiasm.”

Nathalie Van Hyfte

Nathalie Van Hyfte, ambassador for Tourism Meetjesland, employee at Provinciaal Streekcentrum Huysmanhoeve
“Travelling to Tomorrow, as far as I’m concerned, is about having a shared passion for a region and working together to make it even more appealing.”

Bart Van Damme

Bart Van Damme, regional coordination employee Meetjesland
“Travelling to Tomorrow means listening carefully to all stakeholders within tourism.”

Willy Van Zandweghe

Willy Van Zandweghe, chairman of the tourism advisory council in Sint-Laureins
“Travelling to Tomorrow means listening to every voice within tourism policy.”

Wendy Carnier

Wendy Carnier, Tourism Province of Antwerp, regional worker Kempen
“As a regional worker, I stand literally and figuratively in the region itself. My antennae are always alert to needs and questions. Travelling to Tomorrow, for me, is about continuously building on a state of balance.”

Sabine Ruts

Sabine Ruts, Tourism Province of Antwerp, regional coordinator Kempen
“For me, Travelling to Tomorrow means thoroughly enjoying and being amazed by what you see, do, and experience, while also respecting the location and its residents and appreciating your impact.  Often, this also goes hand-in-hand with significant meetings and a warm feeling that translates into feeling genuinely welcome.”

Alison Elliott

Alison Elliott, manager at Murton Farm, Visitor Farm, Tearoom, Nature Reserve and Educational Centre. (Kirriemuir, region Angus, Scotland)
“Travelling to Tomorrow means embracing a new way of thinking, most importantly ensuring that when hosting, the whole community understands the role they play in tourism.”
Norma Lyall, manager by Flourish9, local enterprise (region Angus, Scotland)
“Travelling to Tomorrow means for me a path of discovery, learning and engagement; sharing the knowledge gained of seeing things with new eyes.”

Els Van Zele

Els Van Zele, Visit Mechelen, Destination Marketing Expert
“Travelling to Tomorrow is continuously recognising the opportunities.”

New insights

During the Travelling to Tomorrow summit, people who were involved in the trials talked to one another and other interested parties from the tourism sector. These insights were gained during these exchanges.

“Every region is different and encounters different obstacles and positive elements. It’s great to hear different stories. It offers inspiration to apply it in your own work situation. There are various phases to creating flourishing tourism (depending on context). You must look to apply the strengths of your own region.”

“We (tourism policy) must dare to let go, ask questions and trust more, particularly when it comes to (tourism) entrepreneurs. Involving residents as a group is increasingly important and must not be underestimated. There is already collaboration but this could be expanded further. These are great stories about the significance of collaboration.”



The participants in this workshop are also curious about:

  • Inclusivity – How do you involve people who won’t put themselves forward but who are part of the community?
  • How can I really get involved? Tools and tricks and examples of projects.
  • More specific ideas on how visitors and residents can integrate and be brought together.
  • How can you support one another in the community (tourism sector) to expand upon participative projects that are often lengthy and complex?

We are very curious about how all these projects will develop.

See the excerpt from the Travelling to Tomorrow summit, when the representatives from the Trials provide explanations about their activities.