NEW DELHI: Using Bollywood, beer and the charms of its cities Brussels and Bruges, Belgium has upped the number of its tourists from India but wants the graph to rise higher by advancing cooperation in the field of tourism as well as education.
"What we want to do is to make Belgium better known among Indians. As Indians are travelling more and more, they are visiting many European countries," said Francois Delhaye, Belgium's ambassador to India.
The country's capital Brussels may not be as well as known as it deserves to be, Delhaye told PTI.
The two countries should concentrate on student exchange besides tourism.
"In the education sector, we have a growing number of Indians now in Brussels but we want to have more Indian students especially in sciences because Indian students are so good," Delhaye said.
According to an estimate, Indian students are enrolled in 18 major universities in Belgium.
About 400-600 students register in the KU Leuven each academic year, making them the second largest student community from a non-European community after China in the university in the town of Leuven.
Delhaye added that there is already a large Indian presence in Brussels with more than 80 companies there.
"Belgium is the home to international beer. We recently launched an Indian beer which was brought from Belgium but for the taste of Indians after a few years it will be probably brewed here in India," he said.
Brussels, home of the European Parliament, has long been a pit stop for many tourists from the Indian subcontinent travelling to Netherlands, Germany or France, added Anousjka Schmidt, foreign markets manager, Visit Brussels, the communication agency for tourism in the Brussels-Capital Region.
However, the city's many amusement parks, museums, including the one dedicated to the Herges' boy detective Tintin, and delights like Belgian waffles are drawing more people from India for longer stays, she said.
She noted that much has changed in the past few years with Belgium opening its doors to Bollywood, handing out easy licenses for film-shooting.
A portion of Aamir Khan starrer 'PK', which released in 2014, was shot in the picturesque canal city of Bruges.
According to statistics portal Statista, the number of outbound trips from India to Europe in 2017 was 27,14,000.
In 2017, over 53,000 Indians travelled to Brussels for at least one night's stay, a 25 per cent jump from 2016, said Schmidt.
"Brussels is growing to become an important go-to destination in all European itineraries. From January to July this year, Indian arrival to Brussels grew by over 14 per cent in comparison with the same period last year. While a significant rise of over 21 per cent in the number of nights spend in Brussels by Indians has been observed," Schmidt said.
She said Brussels is promoting 20 different themes, including sports, heritage and gastronomy, in India.
"We noted that for India, beer is a very important segment, chocolates too, and Belgian waffles, everything that is related to family activities and shopping is a very important element. We are trying to focus on these important factors and build itineraries accordingly," she said.
Schmidt noted that Brussels had a rough period after the terrorist attacks in 2016.
However, tourists from India didn't stop from going to Brussels.
"Our first mission is to convince people who click a couple of pictures to stay at least one night in Brussels. We want to increase the numbers for sure but it is difficult to say whether we want them to double in the years to come.
"From 2016 to 2017, we have seen up to 25 per cent increase, which is an important number. And we want to keep going," she said.