News & Views

Visit Brussels / Hello From The Other Side

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world

Tourism organisation uses phone boxes to connect tourists with Belgians

For four days in November 2015, the Belgian government imposed a security lockdown on Brussels, closing shops, public transport and schools due to threats about potential terrorist attacks. The lockdown is estimated to have cost the city €51.7m ($56.3m) per day and led to a significant decline in the number of foreign tourists.

In a bid to reassure travellers that Brussels is a safe place, Visit Brussels, with agency AIR Brussels, set up special telephone boxes in three locations around the city - Mont des Arts, Place Flagey and Molenbeek (the neighbourhood that has become notorious for its links to various terrorist activities). From 7 to 11 January the tourism board live streamed the surroundings of the telephone boxes and invited foreigners to give them a ring using the #CallBrussels microsite. Passers-by were encouraged to pick up the phone and answer any questions tourists might have. The Brussels tourism board hopes that the campaign will convince people from France, The Netherlands, the UK, Italy and Spain to book a holiday to the city and not cancel any existing travel plans.

Visit Brussels will release online videos showing the campaign in action and is publicising the initiative on social media and through online ads in priority countries.


Contagious Insight / 

Authentic ambassadors / For potential visitors this campaign is an opportunity to get unfiltered answers to any question related to the city, while for locals, this is a chance to tell the real story of their region, and champion the city. People from Brussels might pick up the phone out of curiosity, but they also have an incentive to rectify misconceptions about their city and improve tourism. When Contagious called one of the phone boxes, we got to speak to a friendly lady who not only told us about life in Brussels now but also recommended specific activities (see screenshot below). The mechanic of the campaign brings to mind a campaign we’d seen from a Swiss tourist organisation, in which an interactive billboard in Zurich’s largest railway station live streamed video from a mountain retreat, inviting passers-by to join him. By using locals, both these campaigns show the human side of their destination.

View from the ground / With the foreign media publishing stories that refer to neigbourhoods like Molenbeek as ‘Europe’s jihadi central’, it’s easy to see why people aren’t flocking there on holiday. #CallBrussels cleverly battles foreign perceptions of the city with real-time images of peaceful urban square and authentic perspectives from people actually on the ground. Choosing Molenbeek as one of the locations for the campaign was an especially brave way to show that everyday life in the area is far from the war zone the international media is portraying.




This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world. I/O helps anyone in the world of marketing understand why brands are innovating, how they're doing it and with what success.

Learn more about Contagious I/O