Belgium is giving all residents free train journeys and cultural vouchers in an effort to boost domestic tourism as lockdown ends.

The government announced last week that it would provide all residents with a free 10-journey rail pass as it emerges from three months of lockdown. Valid from July until the end of December, the rail pass can be used anywhere in the country and is part of a package of measures to boost domestic tourism and stimulate the economy. Other steps include a €300 (US$337) voucher that residents can use in restaurants, museums and theatres, as well as an extension of parental leave, according to the Brussels Times.

Belgium has been hit hard by the coronavirus, but in recent weeks infection rates have slowed, and the government is continuing to review lockdown measures as the country begins moving again.

Phase three of the country’s roadmap out of lockdown got underway on 8 June with most businesses resuming operations, including cafes, restaurants and bars, with the requirement that tables must be kept 1.5 metres apart. Tourist boats have returned to the canals of Bruges, hotels have begun to accept bookings and, as of 15 June, restrictions have been lifted for travel within the European Union, and from the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Belgium’s package to encourage domestic tourism is similar to incentives being introduced in other countries. Japan, for example, is considering partly funding domestic trips through its Go-To Travel campaign and New Zealand has proposed a four-day workweek to give residents additional holiday time. Switzerland has also proposed providing residents with vouchers worth 200CHF (US$210) to be spent in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

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