23-year-old Daniela and her boyfriend Irshaad have been together for a year and a half. You live in Brussels, near the luxury hotel Steigenberger Wiltcher’s. Daniela and Irshaad are one of the lucky couples who managed to book a night there for the Valentine’s Day weekend.

“I think it’s a really good idea,” said Daniela. “Otherwise we would never have stayed here. It would probably not have been possible.”

As part of its advertisement for “Knuffelkontakte” – the Flemish word for cuddle friends – the five-star hotel offered rooms at a particularly affordable price. Fully booked half of the days early, said hotel manager Michel Cottray.

Belgians are only allowed to come into close contact with one person outside of their own household – their designated knuffel contacts – who may be a close friend, relative or lover.

The Brussels Hotel Association had taken up the idea of ​​bringing couples together overnight. Almost 40 hotels in and around the Belgian capital take part in the campaign and offer rooms at a third of the regular price. The head of the hotel association, Rodolphe van Weyenbergh, sees this as an opportunity to draw attention to the plight of the hotel industry. “Instead of demonstrating on the street, hotel operators invite guests,” he said.

Van Weyenbergh described advertising as a way to raise awareness of the problems in the hotel sector

Although Valentine’s Day traditions have not had a particular meaning for hotels in Brussels in the past, Cottray said they would “get very big” in 2021. He said this had to do with pandemic restrictions and people’s desire to have a good time in good company.

Alternative winter vacation

Belgians are currently not allowed to travel abroad on vacation. However, the school holidays start on Monday so the hoteliers wanted to find a solution.

As part of the campaign, Knufflecontacts can have special meals brought to their rooms

“We are of course doing this for the Belgians, who are not allowed to leave the country, and for the Brussels people who may have walked past our hotel in the last 20 years and always wanted to stay here at some point,” said Cottray.

“It is of course a great pleasure for the employees to see customers again,” said Cottray. “It is very motivating for people who have been at home with reduced working hours for weeks or months.”

Improved bookings for just a few days won’t save the entire hotel industry, said van Weyenbergh. He hopes, however, that the action will bring Belgians into hotels and that their stays will make an impression.

Daniela and Irshaad are also happy to have gotten out of their own house for a while. They think it’s a “nice coincidence” that the hotel promotion comes on time for Valentine’s Day.

This article has been translated from German.

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