'Ugly' Tourism in Belgium

An entrepreneur in a declining industrial city takes visitors on an 'Urban Safari.'
December 17, 2010, 6am PST | Lynn Vande Stouwe
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Charleroi, a city of 200,000 with an unemployment rate of over 25%, typically doesn't get many tourists, writes Frances Robinson, but native son Nicolas Buissart hopes to change that with his unconventional tours of former industrial sites. Stops include abandoned metro stations, a converted river barge, and former steel works.

While Buissart describes ticket sales as "robust," city officials have yet to embrace the concept, writes Robinson:

"City authorities haven't taken kindly to the tour. They say the city has turned a corner.

"'The cultural life of Charleroi is very rich,' insists [Antoine Tanzilli, the councilor responsible for promoting tourism at City Hall.] "Although it's not a tourist town in the conventional sense, we get visitors due to the airport, and there are some architectural jewels.'

"New transport and business projects, he reckons, will reinvigorate the city center."

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Published on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 in The Wall Street Journal
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