No fewer than one and a half million people visited the “Winter Wonders”. Christmas Market in Brussels in December 2012. The absence of the usual giant Xmas tree and the introduction of scaffolding and coloured lights masquerading as a ‘digital Xmas tree’ was not to everyone’s liking. The controversy generated news reports and TV coverage as far away as Siberia !
According to the Mayor of Brussels Freddy Thielemans and the City Alderman responsible for tourism Philippe Close (both Francophone socialists) the visitor numbers show that Winter Wonders 2012 as a whole was successful and this was is in part due to the controversial electronic Christmas tree that stood on the city’s central square, the Grand’Place.
1.5 million people from home and abroad visited Winter Wonders between 30 November and 6 January. This is about the same as last year. However, hotels in the capital report that booking in December 2012 were up by 3 to 4% on December 2011. On average, around 65% of available rooms were occupied.
“The “buzz” surrounding the electronic Christmas tree has given Brussels an avant-garde image”, Alderman Close told journalists. Mr Close added that the tree was the subject of 200 articles in the foreign press, 100 domestic press articles and 50 television reports.
The tree was climbed 6,936 times, raising 8,130 euro for the not for profit organisation Samusocial.
However, the tree was not to everyone’s taste and Mr Close promised that next year a traditional Christmas tree will be put up on the Grote Markt.