Line Vreven works as Director and Regional Manager North America, for VISITFLANDERS in New York. She spearheads strategic international outreach regarding Flanders- Brussels tourism agenda. Prior to Flanders- Belgium, she worked as an independent consultant on a number of global nonprofit, business, management and advocacy strategies, providing strategic management consulting on international policy development, effective corporate messaging, organizational structure, and international markets to a wide variety of clients. Before she found her way to VISITFLANDERS, she served as AARP’s Vice President International, following a distinguished diplomatic career during which she received two knighthoods and was recognized by four governments and the U.N. with several awards. She served as Head of European Affairs and Associate Vice President at the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). As a top Belgian diplomat, Ms. Vreven led a range of sensitive global negotiations in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. Her diplomatic career was shaped by an extensive international legal experience, which prepared her to navigate the political organization and decision-making processes of the U.S., and other governments and multilateral institutions such as the EU, NATO, WTO, OECD, UN, and the Council of Europe.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Line Vreven (LV): Most people have no idea how important the contribution the travel industry makes, not only to the lives of the travelers, but also to the economy and culture of the region they visit. Flanders is small region within a small European country but rich in possibilities and offers. Tourism is very important for our GDP and I see many opportunities to increase tourism to our destination.
TRO: How has your background in international diplomacy influenced your views on travel?
LV: I have always been an avid traveler, it impressed upon me the importance of multi-cultural sensitivities and differences. But foremost it made me personally experience the need and prime importance of a comfortable, hassle free trip, wonderful personalized service friendly hotels and tasty restaurants and that is exactly the promise of an experience we strive for when we talk about Flanders, Belgium.
TRO: How have you seen VISITFLANDERS change and grow over the years?
LV: We are a very vibrant and culturally rich region, and we are a market driven research based organization. What makes us unique as a National Tourist Board is that we also directly invest in the tourist infrastructure we offer to travelers.
TRO: Tell us a little bit about your role as Director and Regional Manager for North America.
LV: I head a small but very enthusiastic, talented, and driven team in New York City that covers all of North America. We do this by carefully analyzing market research and data, by building up strong relationships and partnership, and by implementing a very targeted marketing strategy that offers us a great ROI (return on investment).
TRO: What are some of the challenges you have faced as Director and Regional Manager for VISITFLANDERS? How have you overcome these obstacles?
LV: To rebrand us and to actively market ourselves as a strong vibrant cultural region that offers amazing prices and quality to travelers and agents. Since we are such a small destination, most North American travelers typically associate the bigger European countries with their travel experience to Europe. We are here to say that there are many hidden gems in Europe, many destinations that are worth a visit and can offer and equal or even better experience than visiting the bigger European countries. Flanders in Belgium is one of those gems. We offer a truly unique personal experience of very high quality and value.
TRO: What are some of services VISITFLANDERS offers travel agents?
LV: We engage with travel agents on a regular basis. We provide, news, updates, and information to our agency partners. Even more important, we provide ongoing trainings that allow agents to become familiar with the destination. This includes FAM trips and hands-on travel advise as well. We also help them navigate the various offers and vet information for them.
TRO: What are some of the business principles that VISITFLANDERS relies on?
LV: The biggest one is we under promise and we over-deliver, so we always offer you an even more memorable and wonderful experience for your travelers. This also makes us a trusted partner and adviser and one you can rely on because we put a careful value and quality label on the products we recommend.
TRO: Why should travel agents choose to contact VISITFLANDERS before booking trips for their clients to Flanders, Belgium?
LV: Travel agents can and should contact us with any specific questions before they plan and book a trip for a client. We can assist with itinerary planning and specific supplier advice, be it finding the right hotel, a tour operator, a DMC, transportation, or sightseeing recommendations.
TRO: What type of an experience can travel agents expect to have when using your services?
LV: We truly value our travel agent partners. They are the frontline agents that sell our destination and our experience. They are our brand ambassadors. We have a new team in place and we are all eager to help with any questions or concerns. We are a small office but we are responsive and strive to provide an excellent experience for our agent partners.
TRO: What can travel agents expect to see from VISITFLANDERS in the future?
LV: We are in the process of developing a few exciting new tools that travel agents will be able to use in the near future. We have just launched a new responsive website with a new look and feel and updated content. Travel agents can continue to look forward to our continued dedication to this important segment of the travel industry.
TRO: What do you enjoy most about travel?
LV: The trip and the memories that stay with you forever. Traveling is an experience for all the senses, for body and mind. Every time you return from a trip, there is a new insight, a new learning, a new perspective that you gain on life. It is these experiences and memories that shape and form a person and that I enjoy the most.