“It’s a mix between a Club Med type vacation center and a large American resort, all in a soothing setting in the heart of nature.“. This is how Prince Édouard de Ligne sums up his new “Your Nature” project. After ten years of negotiation and construction, the first Belgian eco-resort opened its doors this summer in Antoing on the banks of the Grand Large. covers almost 288 hectares, making it one of the largest in Europe, if not the largest.
Imagined more than 15 years ago, the original project was just a classic tourist center and even an indoor ski slope as explained by the newspaper Le Soir. Over time and with the growing importance of ecological issues, the designers finally imagined a place dedicated to ecotourism. But what is an eco-resort?
In the heart of nature
Ecotourism is a form of travel that is growing more and more, especially since the Covid pandemic. “These are holiday villages focused on ecotourism. We see this all over the world and especially in Europe. It is a trend that aims to travel in nature, off the beaten track and mass tourism“, explains Alain Decorp, professor of marketing at the University of Namur and specialist in tourism.
The Antoing site will have 180 lodges at the end of the summer (115 currently), nearly 400 more at the end of the next two phases of the project. There are 5 types of accommodation for 2 to 6 people with prices varying between 120 and 480 euros. They are all located in the heart of the forest or on the banks of a river.
To respect the environment
“Your Nature” is therefore respectful of the environment from its creation to its daily management. “90% of the companies that participated in the construction of the site are companies from Wallonia. Our lodges are mainly wooden buildings on stilts, which gives off an interesting EPB with very good insulation each time and therefore less carbon emissions. From an energy point of view, all of our recreational buildings are powered either by pellets or biogas and we have 3,000 photovoltaic panels that supply our homes with electricity.“, says Édouard de Ligne.
Another specificity of the place, as soon as they arrive, holidaymakers must leave their car in the reception car park. They will only be able to move around the site by bicycle, scooter or golf cart (small electric car). A way to ensure the tranquility of the place. But ecotourism is not just about that. “Ecotourism is above all contact with nature, it is slow tourism with the possibility of taking your time. This is why cars are banned, we move on foot or by bicycle. Or also takes more time to discover the places around us, or even the local gastronomy. It really is an all encompassing concept. It’s not just accommodation, it’s also everything else“, defined Alain Decorp. Indeed, the site of “Your Nature” also includes restaurants and a grocery store where customers can discover local products.
Beyond this ecological aspect, Your Nature customers will also be able to relax in long walks on the site. About forty sporting or recreational activities are also available to them with swimming pool, padel, petanque, minigolf or even very soon a spa. Most activities, however, require a supplement.
A wealthy clientele?
Ecotourism which has a certain cost (between 120 and 480 euros per night at “Your Nature”), “It is true that when we talk about ecotourism we are talking about accommodation that is certainly authentic in wood, for example, but which will also incorporate all the requirements of the modern hotel industry. This has a cost and it is not always cheap. So ecotourism is still aimed at a fairly privileged clientele. We must be aware that ecotourism currently remains a niche product. We are talking about 5 to 10% of tourists who currently make this choice“, according to Alain Decorp.
Customers from all over Europe
Despite this reality and the increasing number of unusual tourist accommodations in Wallonia, Édouard de Ligne believes in his project. What’s next is the construction of nearly 400 additional homes. “I would add that we are convinced of the tourist potential of the region. We are at the crossroads between Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia. Germany is not far away, as is the Netherlands, not to mention northern France. It is therefore a region with a high density and with a purchasing power which is quite high in Europe.“.
For the moment the success of the places is confirmed since a month after its opening, the tourists are present. Belgians of course, but others are already coming from the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and even Denmark.