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Imagine Belgium: Building a startup in the tourism sector in 2020

July 27, 2020

Imagine Belgium: Building a startup in the tourism sector in 2020

Have you walked by the Grand-Place in Brussels recently? If so, you certainly passed by our house and you may have thought: “hey, what’s going on in there?”. Well, let us tell you a little secret! Imagine Belgium is cooking up some surprises that you will hear about very soon.

Here are some special info on what we are planning to do right in the Grand-Place! 

“Imagine Belgium”, what is that?

If Brussels has now become one of the first Citytrip destinations in Europe, Belgium still has a lot more to offer ! But where do we start? And how do we boost the Belgian tourism sector? That is the main objective of Imagine Belgium!

Let’s introduce ourselves! We are Imagine Belgium and we created our startup in 2018 with the help of our incubator Startup Factory. At Imagine Belgium, we have a bold vision: revolutionizing the tourism sector by using new technologies! Easy-peasy, right?

Our mission is to invite visitors to (re)discover Belgium like never before ! We want you to get to know more about the cultural, historical and natural heritage of our small country… but in a fun way! At Imagine Belgium, you can be sure that you will enjoy your visit. Let us tell you more!

Once upon a time in Vienna, Baudoin de Troostembergh, our Business Developper at Startup Factory was on holidays with his children. Suddenly, he saw the “Time Travel Vienna” experience and as he was curious about it, he decided to try this surprising attraction: « Despite its dusty side, the whole family loved it so the next day I went back with my nephews! Then I wondered: why hasn’t it become a thing in Belgium yet? From that moment on, it became a project in my mind and Marie Logé was the perfect CEO to develop this new activity. »

Opening soon, Imagine Belgium will launch in September its first and exciting experience to get a taste of the country: Flybox!

Have you heard about Flybox?

So Flybox, how does it work? Thanks to an ultra-realistic flying sensation and 360° immersive images captured by our partner de pinxi, you will “take off” from the Grand Place for a short flight over some of the best places in Belgium.

We offer the possibility to explore the country in a unique way, comfortably installed with a VR helmet. With Flybox you will sail on the channels of the lovely Bruges, climb the Bueren steps in Liège and fly over the Atomium in Brussels, and so much more!

In short Flybox is both cultural and fun: it is a two-in-one activity, like laundry pods!

Thanks to this new and innovative way of experiencing Belgium’s cultural heritage, we are also hoping to get the Belgians excited about rediscovering their own country in an interactive and playful way.

Last week, we tested our VR experience and we must say that even the Belgians of the team loved it! We were all super impressed by the sensations we got when we flew over the Atomium or when we sun bathed at the sea in Knokke, all of that through virtual reality! Flybox is accessible to the greatest number of people and it is a perfect opportunity for desperate parents willing to entertain their children! Please, don’t thank us!

The pandemic won’t stop us!

In the current health context, Flybox has been designed to comply with covid-19 standards.

Our CEO, Marie Logé comments : “When the coronavirus hit Belgium, we had to re-think our whole experience. The pandemic did challenge us in many ways. But as a startup, we were quick on our feet. During many months, we had to postpone our launch, rethink our funding strategy and put on hold many suppliers and job appliers. Nowadays, the tourism sector is still in jeopardy and the crisis is still very real for us as a second wave starts to show up around Europe. But we are keeping a positive mindset and hope the Belgians and visitors as well ! We already re-invented ourselves once, doing it again doesn’t scare us”.

We are committed to respecting the rules of health and social distancing. The reception capacity has been limited and the facilities and equipment will be systematically cleaned after each use. At Imagine Belgium, we are real Coronavirus-fighters! So we will do everything to make sure you have a pleasant experience with Flybox.

Grand-Place, here we are!

What a better place to start your journey around Belgium than the Grand-Place in Brussels? Lucky you! At Imagine Belgium, we are so glad to invite you in our house right on the Grand-Place. We also feel honored to have the privilege to settle down in the “Maison de la Balance” on Rue de la Colline 24.

Life is sometimes full of surprises! And the story of our startup is a good example of that! Can you believe that we changed our location four times for Imagine Belgium? In fact, we were planning to be situated in the last floor of Central Station, we also considered settling in a private house close to the Mont des arts and even moving in the the basements of the Galeries Saint-Hubert! They were not really the ideal places for our project. So we were looking for another place to open our activity, when Marie Logé passed in front of the Maison de la Balance on her way to buy lunch and saw it was for rent. She just gave a call and the magic happened! Imagine Belgium landed in the Grand-Place! The moral of the story? Always give it a try, it might work!

We don’t want to show off, but we are really proud of our house (so we do show off a bit). The facade of our house as you see it today is pretty much the same as it was in 1704. Isn’t that incredible? Of course with such a great historical patrimony comes greater responsibilities! That is why we are committed to take care of this ancient building while offering visitors a technological experience.

Did you know that the set-up of Flybox is non-intrusive for the house? In fact, it did not require any demolition of the main building to put in place our VR experience. We are committed to show you the good, the bad and the ugly so you will get to discover the house as raw as it is now. Follow us on our journey to create a full immersive experience and don’t miss a beat.

Our CEO, Marie Logé adds: “One of our values is to be environmentally friendly. That is why we use second hand materials from short circuits and we prefer to use virtual reality to visit some preserved places”.

Behind the scenes

Now that you know how it all started. Hold on, there is still more!

Once you get the keys of your new house, what is the first thing you do? You turn on the light of course! Well, in our house there was no electricity… and also no toilet! But it was not enough to scare our fantastic pair Marie Logé and Marie Schyns at Imagine Belgium!

Every time they ran out of battery, our two smart girls would go to their usual lunch place to charge their phones and laptops (we love you Brod, you saved us so many times). Then you may wonder “what about the toilets”? Well as you can imagine, these ladies always had a plan B! 

With the covid-19 crisis, Marie & Marie had to adapt their daily life like everyone else obviously (in their case it meant having full access to electricity, WiFi, tap water and WC, so you know, not that bad). But they also had to delay the construction work to renew the house, and that was another challenge for Imagine Belgium!

After the rain comes the sun, after the lockdown came the fun! Our team tripled in a week! Our duo welcomed five new members: Anais, Dorian, Matias, Louis and Mathilde joined the adventure! But wait! We now have electricity and wonderful toilets, but the house remained basically empty, especially considering the fact that there were no desk! Who cares? We started our internship by working all together on two recycled doors!

Don’t worry it didn’t last long. We soon rented a truck to go to Baudoin’s farm, our co-founder, where he kindly stored our new desks, new chairs, new everything to equip our team! Now we are all comfortably settled in the attic of the house… but we still use our lovely doors for our daily meetings!

What’s next?

Wait! It’s not over? Our team is working on something big! In fact, Imagine Belgium is a two-steps experience. First, discover our world and test our virtual reality experience. Then come back a year later and get even more amazed ! Indeed, in 2021 (hopefully a luckier year than 2020) Imagine Belgium will be a 60-minute immersive attraction designed to introduce the country and its heritage to travelers. Thanks to new technologies such as virtual reality, 360° projections, mapping and 4D cinema, Imagine Belgium wants to give a boost to the Belgian tourism sector by showcasing places to visit throughout the entire country.

Our goal is pretty straight forward : create a new-generation cultural activity for a new-generation city ! But we will come back to that second step later on. You really thought we were going to explain everything to you now ?

Get ready for the future of tourism!

Written by Mathilde Pareja

Meet Mathilde, our Content Creator. She loves travelling and meeting new people. Belgian fries and waffles are her little "péchés mignons". She is always looking for good plans and tips to explore and (re)discover Belgium !

July 27, 2020

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