My Welcome Experience

From May to October 2014, inhabitants of Mechelen tourists in their hometown. 40 ethnic retailers amaze customers looking for new experiences with community enriched products and services in a stimulating, convivial and warm atmosphere. MAP & BOOKLET available at TOURISM OFFICE, MECHELEN (Belgium. The city of Mechelen celebrates 50 years of migration & diversity in 2014. This celebration inspired the students ‘Multimedia Design’ from University College MORE to discover the world at their feet. 80 students teamed up with 40 ethnic retailers that chose Mechelen as their new hometown. The students listened to the stories of the migrant families, and visualized their localization process in a poster centered on the Sint-Rombaut tower, the city’s landmark. The posters are put on display in the shops and restaurants, and create a vivid dialogue among new and old customers, and the migrant families. Moreover, the posters transform the city of Mechelen into a fairy town! Up to now, creativity and growth were hardly associated with ethnic retail. Convinced by its positive experience with ‘Community Based Tourism Development’, ViaVia Tourism Academy offers free workshops to ethnic retailers that unlock hidden talents and skills (and create new jobs): ‘Designing a Unique Customer Experience’. The goal of the overall campaign is socio-economic empowerment of low skilled newcomers, and the creation of a new, uncontested market place. The first results are encouraging and bring about a change in perception of the much needed multicultural retail and small restaurants in Flanders’s towns and municipalities. The inhabitants of Mechelen discover new cultures and countries of origin within walking distance, they learn different ways of food processing and body care, they are amazed by the biographies and hidden talents of those who came from far-away, looking for a better life. The meeting between migrants and students is also a successful breakthrough according to dr. Filip Burgelman, University College MORE: "it's important that graduates learn to see connections between immigrants, entrepreneurs, innovation and creativity; and how this can lead to new products and services. That is the essence of socially responsible entrepreneurship.’ ‘My Welcome Experience’ is realized by ViaVia Tourism Academy (VVTA) within the framework of ‘CAFÉ HERMAN’, a European Social Fund project that runs 2013-2014 (ESF); the city of Mechelen is a most valued partner. Dorien De Troy, VVTA: “When they feel welcomed, ethnic entrepreneurs become an asset for a creative city. They are willing to provide 24h catering and a variety of services knowledge workers and new businesses are looking for when they decide where to establish.” More about: ESF-Flanders, project nr 214-4184 (2013-2014) Dorien De Troy, project manager ViaVia Tourism Academy vzw Geerdegemvaart 96-98, 2800 Mechelen (Belgium)