Residents, visitors find much to like about community, but more must be done to promote local tourism
It should come as no surprise that the biggest draws for tourists to the Belgium area are Harrington Beach State Park and Luxembourg American Cultural Center.
“The results (of the survey) reiterate some of the things we are trying to do and where to take our village,” board member Jason Acevedo said.
The survey, which was a joint effort between the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, the Belgium Area Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Belgium and the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, was released at last week’s Village Board meeting.
The survey was given to tourists and
Belgium residents from November to January at HOBO’s Korner Kitchen.
Of the 47 residents surveyed, 35 mentioned Harrington or LACS as a main reason to visit the village.
Of the 24 visitors, 13 mentioned either the park or cultural center as the community’s “most attractive asset.”
The village lacks a developed downtown area and is unable to attract retail businesses, many residents said.
“Belgium is a great place to live, but there isn’t much to do if you are visiting,” one resident said.
Perhaps more frustrating for officials is the overall appearance of the village from the outside eye.
Many visitors noted the “blighted-looking” downtown and Main Street area. Some visitors also cited a lack of a grocery store (Belgium Market operated on Highway LL from October 2007 to November 2008) and restaurants as weaknesses in the village.
The village, with help from the state and Ozaukee County, is set to reconstruct Main Street beginning in 2017.
“There are some pretty hefty negatives in the survey that we need to turn around,” Village President Rich Howells said. “We have to remember that we can’t lose our heritage. We can still move forward, but we can’t forget that. That’s why we are here.”
A majority of visitors surveyed were complimentary of the village, citing the “pleasant people” as a reason to return, in addition to the state park and cultural center, among other assets.
“The people with their warm and friendly inclusion of out-of-town visitors,” one respondent said when asked about the village’s most attractive assets.
Supporting retail development in a village of 1,700 is a challenge, one resident said.
“The fact is that Belgium is a small community with very limited resources. We need to understand what we have and take advantage of it. Part of those resources may not be what we have but what we don’t have. From what I have heard and seen, Belgium is not large enough to support a number of businesses or features.
“What tourism would do is provide that traffic flow that would help to support the services that would benefit the people in this community,” the resident said.
Sara Jacoby, operations and events manager at LACS, presented the results to the board. Jacoby said the village needs to promote its assets that are currently being under-utilized like the Interurban Trail that runs through the village.
“That is a real asset we have and few people talked about it,” Jacoby said.