(toespraak bij de ontvangst van een groep internationale studenten toerisme, in Antwerpen op meerdaagse studiereis op uitnodiging van de Thomas More Hogeschool)
Welcome in Antwerp, welcome in our newly renovated city hall.
When I was briefed about you visiting Antwerp I immediatly expressed my interest to meet you.
As future tourism professionals by definition you are what I woud like to describe as ‘men and women of the world’.
Open minded people, eager to learn. You came to the right place, dear friends.
Antwerp might not be a world city by size, it is very much a city open to the world.
It is often said Antwerpians are chauvinistic, tend to exaggerate when it comes to expressing pride in their city.
But there are reasons to be chauvinistic in Antwerp, believe me.
Antwerp is what I like to call: a pocketsized metropole. A great place to live and work.
Antwerp has everything London, Paris or New York has, of course on a smaller scale. More accessible. Cheaper. But just as appealing, just a sharp, just as relevant.
Big ideas in a small place. This what we are known for.
Historically speaking Antwerp has always played its role.
Our so called ‘Golden Age’ was in the 16th century, when Antwerp was the biggest city north of Paris.
But I believe history is repeating itself in Antwerp.
In the 16th century Antwerp was a leading port city (just as it is today),
it was a safe haven for free thinkers and artists (just as it is today),
it was a melting pot for people from all over the planet (just as it is today),
and Antwerp was a laboratory for new ideas and innovation (just as it is today).
Proud of our heritage, embracing the future, that is what we are.
My dear friends,
What exactly defines Antwerp? It is a collection of beautiful buildings? It is a destination for fine dining? A great destination for shopping? A cultural hub with world class musea, exhibitions, art galleries? Is it a place for trade? A fashion capital?
My answer is: Antwerp is all this and more. It is a vibe.
I sincerely hope during your visit you will get the feel of Antwerp.
And of course I want you all to go back to your respective countries and share that vibe.
Spread the message: ‘You’re welcome to Antwerp’.