A highly anticipated convention center reopening, several new venues and the launch of a museum dedicated to the art of a local son are among Belgium's newest offerings for meeting and incentive groups.
First, there's Belgian news closer to home: The Tourist Office for Flanders, Belgium, which represents the Dutch-speaking (vs. the French-speaking) half of the country, has opened a new U.S. office in the New York Times Building in New York City. In January, Dan Benjoseph was named director of the organization, and Liliane Opsomer, who served as acting director when the Tourist Office for Flanders, Belgium, was launched in 2008, was named deputy director.
Square, Brussels' refurbished and reinvented convention center, debuts this month. It was formerly called the Palais des Congrès and was built for the 1958 World Expo. Though the façade and various other key features have been retained, the interior has been completely renovated and upgraded. Included in the 108,000 square feet of meeting space are three auditoriums, 22 meeting rooms, a top-floor event space and the Grand Hall, with 43,000 square feet of exhibit space.
In June, the Musée Magritte opened, featuring more than 200 works by surrealist René Magritte, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, posters, musical scores, photos and films. The museum accommodates private events for up to 500.
Brussels International Tourism and Congress, the capital's destination marketing organization, has named a fifth neighborhood to its official convention districts: the Mont des Arts, encompassing the two above-mentioned venues. The other districts are Rogier, Grand'Place, Louise and Europe.
On the hotel front, the 150-room Aloft Brussels, set to open next September, has changed its name to Aloft Brussels Schumann.
Chalet Robinson, a charming venue that was ravished by a fire in 1991, has been restored and reopened for private events. In the heart of Bois de la Cambre and accessible only by ferry, the chalet can host 250 for seated dinners and 500 for receptions.
Chateaux d'eau, composed of two restored vintage water towers, is now welcoming groups of up to 250 for events.
The Flanders Congress & Concert Center, adjacent to the Antwerp Zoo, will close in April 2011 for renovation. Plans call for the historic facility to reopen in late 2012, with reconfigured meeting space (currently, it has nine meeting rooms and an auditorium that seats 2,000), plus the addition of a hotel.
A new track that will cut train travel time between Brussels Airport, the main gateway from the United States, and Antwerp by more than half (to less than 30 minutes from the current hour-plus) is currently under construction and will be completed in 2012.
The Carlton Hotel is now the Leopold Hotel Antwerp. The property, which has 127 guest rooms and four meeting rooms, was renovated this past spring.
A new property will soon join the hotel scene in this charming Flemish city. The Grand Hotel Casselbergh, slated for completion next February, will offer 118 guest rooms and nine meeting rooms, along with a bar, a restaurant and a fitness center/spa.
The Flanders-Brussels Convention Bureau, based in Brussels, has changed its name to The Belgium Convention Bureau for Flanders and Brussels.