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Successful summer tourist season in Belgium, Atomium celebrates nine millionth visitor

The Atomium Brussels, Belgium - Belga
17:46 30/08/2022

It’s been a successful summer for tourist attractions across Belgium, with the Atomium in Brussels also attracting a record number of visitors, reports RTBF.

As one of Belgium’s most iconic sites, the Atomium in Heysel reported its nine millionth visitor on Monday.

The lucky family who purchased the nine millionth ticket were from Flanders. “We’re over the moon,” said the father, still stunned by the revelation. The winners were given a private tour of the Atomium and dinner with a view to remember.

It’s an important milestone for a structure designed to be temporary when it opened in 1958. The Atomium underwent renovation between 2004 and 2006 to become a popular tourist attraction and international symbol for Belgium and its capital.

Since its re-opening, nine million people have visited the historic spheres and its success prompts memories of the building’s striking debut for the world fair Expo 58.

“It’s always stood out. I believe that’s why it’s been kept, since a pavilion is usually taken down after six months and is dismantled after the exhibition. This one, however, was so successful that the population voted for it to be kept,” explained Atomium director Julie Almau Gonzalez. 

Zoos and theme parks report positive summer

Theme parks and zoos have also enjoyed a positive summer season. Despite heatwaves reducing the number of people on some days, many still managed to equal or surpass the number of visitors in 2019, before the start of the pandemic.

Walibi amusement park in Brabant Walloon province, had a good summer despite high temperatures. “Normally, heatwaves don’t attract many people to theme parks. We noticed however, that customers still came despite the soaring temperatures,” confirmed spokeswoman, Justien Dewil. With a total of 510,000 visitors, the park welcomed 15% more people than in 2019.

“We’ve resurfaced financially after two difficult years,” said Dewil. She added that the park’s success was mainly due to its newest addition, the Russes Kondaa roller coaster. This was despite a difficult start to the season when flood damage resulted in Walibi closing its doors for two and a half months, with water park Aqualibi shutting for five months.

Bellewaerde theme park in Ypres in West Flanders, welcomed 350,000 visitors this summer. “We’re seeing the same numbers as 2019,” said marketing and sales director Filip Van Dorpe, who was happy with the increased turnover. “Visitors have spent more,” he added.

Bellewaerde Aquapark was “full every day”. The volume of visitors surpassed available provisions, said Van Dorpe. A similar result was reported at sea parks like Plopsa, which have done “better than ever,” according to spokeswoman Chelsea Vanhullebusch. She pointed out that Plopsaland La Panne in West Flanders province and Plopsa Coo in Liège province also experienced “a really good summer”.

In West Flanders, Boudewijn Seapark also exceeded all expectations during the summer season. According to commercial director Geertrui Quaghebeur, the number of visitors reached similar levels to 2019, “the difference in percentages is minimal”. The heat played a major role in visitor numbers. For Quaghebeur, a new dolphin show and a new outdoor aqua park called Bobo’s Aquasplash were two assets for the park as "visitors could cool themselves during the day”.

Even though Plackendael and Antwerp zoos only welcomed “slightly more visitors”, they were pleased with the rise in subscriptions sold. Spokeswoman Ilse Segers believes this was due to the arrival of orangutans in Planckaendael and the birth of various species of animals at both parks. “It’s always magical to witness the birth of a new resident,” she said.

Photo: © Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck

Written by Louis Kernoa-Pascoe