With new figures showing a record number of tourists visiting the Netherlands in 2017, one particular Dutch heritage official threw a kink into the generally friendly relationship with neighbouring Belgium by making several unflattering comments about the Belgian coastline.
Some 17.6 million visitors travelled to the Netherlands last year, which includes an 11 percent year-on-year increase in the number of visitors to the well-preserved Dutch coast.
“The Flemish coast is a disaster. It’s one giant boulevard. That’s why all those Belgians are coming here,” Bjørn van den Boom, head of public affairs at the state-sponsored conservation organisation, told the daily newspaper De Volkskrant.
The Belgian coastline has several high-rise condos with some reaching a height of almost 30 stories, part of which can be attributed to a move by the Belgian government in the 1960’s to allow every citizen a piece of property on the coast. In comparison, the Netherlands recently signed an agreement to ban any future developers from building on coastal land.
“I have a lot of Flemish friends. Belgians are divided on almost every topic but on this one they agree on: they despise their coastline,” van den Boom told the Observer. “It is dreadful, actually. I’m sorry to say, but I have never met a Belgian who doesn’t agree with me. There is no quality landscape anymore. That’s a consequence of the government not planning and managing how they want to build their coastline.”