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The Brussels Days in Washington and New York

The Brussels Days in Washington and New York

For the 13th Brussels Days, which took place from 21 to 24 May 2018, a delegation from Brussels travelled to New York and Washington. There were official meetings with local officials and seminars with tourism professionals and companies of all kinds. The exclusive concert by Veence Hanao and STIKSTOF, well known artists from the Brussels hip-hop scene, was the high point of the end of the mission.

Held every year since 2006, in a different city, the event aims to promote everything the capital of Europe has to offer, in terms of tourism, investment, technology, professional support, etc.

This year’s mission focused on tourism, eco-construction, the city’s hip hop scene, gastronomy, new technologies and creative industries (fashion & design). A unique opportunity for different Brussels and US professionals to exchange views and glimpse possible future collaborations.

Bilateral relations between the two countries are nothing new. The numbers speak for themselves. 150,000 employees in the United States depend on Belgian investors while American investments in Belgium generate 126,000 jobs. 22,000 Belgians live in the United States while 40,000 Americans live in Belgium. Brussels and Washington are part (with Dubai and Singapore) of the Global Association Hubs Partnership to collaborate in hosting international associative events.

In the field of tourism the figures are also eloquent. Numerous American tourists travel to the capital. No less than 403,326 overnight stays were recorded in 2017, an increase of 28% over the previous year. Whether for business tourism (45%) or leisure (55%), American visitors are keen to spend a few nights in the European capital. The American market is the 6th largest market in terms of tourism and represents 6% of overnight stays in city.

The highlights of the Brussels Days

In Washington on Monday 21 May, Rudi Vervoort, the Minister-President of the Bruxelles-Capital Region and Secretary of State Cécile Jodogne took part in a marathon day of events including a conference organized by BI&E and the Belgian Embassy on the topic of “Scaling Up High Performance Buildings: Brussels and Washington leading the way toward more sustainable cities”, in conjunction with the World Resource Institute, and ”Seamless Smart Mobility in Transatlantic Cities”, a seminar on smart mobility in conjunction with the German Marshall Fund and Brussels International. At noon, there was a business lunch organized by BI&E on the theme Digitalization in the European Public Sector. Business Opportunities in the Capital of Europe”. The day ended with a MICE and leisure workshop and a “walking dinner” at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador. A number of companies and official American representatives were also invited. Over 120 people flocked to the ambassador’s residence.

Tuesday 22 May, selected people from the Region met Rachid Madrane, the Minister of the Wallonie-Brussels Region in charge of promoting Brussels, at the event. He had already taken part in the talk “The Belgian Aesthetic and the Power of Visual Storytelling” a meeting between the famous Brussels photographer Pierre Debusschere and the New Yorker Katharine Zarella organized by MAD Brussels.

During the afternoon, in random fashion, several meetings put the Brussels calendar in sync with New York’s: A live animation on THE LOT RADIO in Brooklyn, simulcast on KIOSK RADIO in Brussels, with the Brussels band STIKSTOF, a visit to the New York offices of the FBI (the Minister-President has taken on more powers over security since 2014), a lunch by the Secretary of State with the “site selectors”at the residence of the Belgian consul general in New York, Madame Cathy Buggenhout, a visit to the Godiva flagship store on Rockefeller Plaza, and finally a seminar on MICE and leisure organized by at the Novotel Time Square.

The evening ended at this hotel with a Networking Event that paired Brussels gastronomy with handcrafted beers. Over 300 people took part in the various events that day.

On Wednesday 23 May, after an Invest breakfast “The Algorithm Economy”, a MAD Fashion Business Trip workshop and a workshop between the Belgian city and New York authorities on a skills exchange regarding passive construction, the winners of the Ice Box Challenge were announced.

Since 21 April, two hermetically sealed containers, each containing a ton of ice, had been standing at the crossroads of Broadway and 40th Street One of these ice boxes was made using classic construction methods and the other a passive method. The results were undeniable: When the containers were opened on 23 May, the “classic” container still held 7% of the ice originally placed in it while the passive container had 42%. The public had been invited to vote on them to win gifts from city, such as a Godiva gift box, tastings of Belgian beers at BXL Zoute, a Brussels restaurant on 22nd Street in New York, a shared bicycle subscription and, of course, a trip to Belgian capital!

To end these Brussels Days, an exclusive party was held in the prestigious setting of the Irving Plaza. Entitled “Beats by Brussels”, it featured the Belgian rappers Veence Hanao and STIKSTOF and the young New York rapper, Young M.A. Over 500 people came to the Irving Plaza, filling it to the brim for the occasion.

Lastly, some meetings of note took place on Thursday 24 May: a talk on the theme “Scaling up High Performance Buildings: Brussels and New York lead the Way toward more Sustainable Cities”, the New York version of the event organized on 21 May in Washington, a MAD workshop, a lunch with the partners of the Ice Box Challenge and a visit to a passive house on Roosevelt Island.

This tightly packed program allowed the visitors from Brussels to forge some strong links in the key areas around the regional capital.