Act Like a Local
29 & 30 November 2013 – KVS, Brussels

In the past 10 years, locals have entered the tourist business and they’re doing a good job. Think about CouchSurfing, AirBNB, Yelp, Unlike, USE-IT, Greeters, Spotted by Locals... What’s going on? And how do you integrate locals in your city marketing?

Friday 29 November

09:00 Registration at KVS

09:30 Opening Speech

Joris Roos — President of TOURIST INFO FOR YOUNG PEOPLE vzw and USE-IT Europe ivzw

09:45 New Horizons: Trends in Youth Travel

David Chapman — Director General WYSE Travel Confederation

Youth travel: is it all about backpackers and students getting drunk on the beach? Not anymore. In 2012, 20% of international arrivals were young people, contributing $ 183 billion to the global economy. Young travellers today also want to enrich themselves with cultural local experiences and we can see that this is top of the motivations for youth travel. Are locals entering the tourist industry or is the tourist industry seeking out and interacting with the locals? Again our research show that local interaction is an essential part of the travelling experience.

We also look at the effects of being unemployed on youth travel, what happens when there are problems with a destination and also the positive economic effects that youth and student travel has on the local economy. We also look at booking trends, how do young people find and trust the information about their destination and what do they do once they are there?

10:30 Break


Anne Verhaeghe — Market Researcher at WES

How many tourists come to a city? Simple question, but not so easy to answer. Traditionally we measure the number of visitors on the basis of registered overnight stays in paid accommodation, but in the past decade, some types of accommodation have emerged that slip through the net. Think of platforms as and popular, but because of the informal nature the visitors remain invisible in the statistics. Especially in the youth segment the impression grows that a large part remains "under the radar", especially if you also take into account visits to family or (student) friends. Until now, it was mainly a gut feeling, but now WES has carried out for the first time a large sample survey in Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, Leuven and Mechelen, in order to be able to put a figure on it. This study, conducted in 2013, is an initiative of TOURIST INFO FOR YOUNG PEOPLE vzw in collaboration with vzw Kunststeden Vlaanderen, Tourism Flanders and VISITBRUSSELS vzw. Anne Verhaeghe of WES will explain the results of this research during her presentation.

11:30 Maps Made by Locals

Nicolas Marichal — Editor in chief of USE-IT Europe

“Where‘s the party at tonight?” “I don‘t need the full list, just tell me where you like to eat?”

“Is this expo actually any good? Have you been there?” “Do girls also pay drinks around here?” These are the questions that every hostel, hotel or tourist info gets, but cannot always answer. USE-IT maps can help for one target group already: young travellers. The maps contain a selection by young people who actually live in the city and who write texts as if they were talking to a friend instead of… well, writing texts.

Every USE-IT initiative starts with a few enthusiastic young locals, who look for their own budget, usually from local authori- ties. In his presentation, Nicolas will highlight the hippie history of the USE-IT concept, explain why it‘s really different from other travel guides, and talk about the growth of the European network. He will also present the results of a survey done in 2013 about the (economic) impact of USE-IT maps.

12:15 Lunch


The Brussels Greeters invite you to experience Brussels through the eyes of a local. Greeters are regular citizens who love their city and want to welcome visitors and share their personal insight into the city for free. They will take you to unusual and often hidden places that are off the tourist trail: for example the Greeter’s neighbourhood, some favourite streets, parks, bars... A Greeter is not a professional guide but a volunteering ambassador of his/her city. How it works: you make a demand specifying your interests, availability and contact details while in the city. The Greeters Network will then match you with a local who will get in contact to create your program together. This participative tourism network exists not only in Brussels, but in a growing number of other cities in the world too. During the Act Like a Local conference, Greeters and additional USE-IT volunteers will be guiding you around — there is no need to book in advance.


Networking moment without champagne or bubbles, just local beers in a local bar.

Saturday 30 November


Frank Van den Block — Founder of BeWelcome

Hospitality Exchange has a long history, but only recently became mainstream with the introduction of the Internet. The largest and best-known network is Couchsurfing, but there are many others too. Are these "hospex" communities a threat to tourism or simply an alternative way of life? In his presentation, Frank will talk about the history behind BeWelcome, the third largest hospitality exchange network founded in 2007. BeWelcome has grown from about 9,000 members in 2011 to 50,000 members in 2013 and seems to have become a real alternative to the larger and increasingly commercial projects. He will present the unique approach that BeWelcome takes and why this offers a sustainable alternative. He will also give a small typology of the different kind of travelers that make use of hospex services, from the "Culture Freak" to the "Activist" and the "Freeloader".

10:30 Break


Sanne and Bart van Poll — Founders of Spotted by Locals

Sanne and Bart van Poll are the co-founders of Spotted by Locals, a publisher of blogs and cityguides by handpicked passionate locals in 51 cities. They will tell you about:

• Their big passions: meeting people from all over the world, and experiencing their local culture

• How they grew an experimental Amsterdam blog in 2008 grew to a network of city blogs with 275 locals in 51 cities

• How they run a company without employees, on the road for 6 months a year

• The secrets behind being able to provide always up-to-date tips by locals - as one of the few in the travel publishing industry

• The business behind Spotted by Locals

• Why they think it would be good for the world if more people "travel local"


Olivier Occelli — Marketing Director ONLYLYON Tourisme et Congrès

During many years DMO (Destination Management Organization) have though that they have the expertise on all topics about their cities… Taking into consideration a few years ago that it was not the case, OnlyLyon Tourism has decided to focus his strategy on the contribution of local experts, inhabitant fans of their city and visitors seduced by their stay. Many actions of OnlyLyon Tourism like their travel guide, website, greeters… are now the concrete application of this global strategy.

12:15 Lunch


Jesús Taguas — Coordinator USE-IT Córdoba

Tourist info made by locals, that's a nice idea, but how does it start? Why would locals feel the urge to start providing services to travellers? Jesús will speak from his own experience as the catalyst and coordinator of USE-IT Córdoba, the first USE-IT in Spain. He will highlight the challenges that his young team had during the startup of their project in 2013. He will share the experience (failures and success) that young creatives, full of energy, encounter when they try to find funds. How do you apply basic structure to a group of volunteers, how do you get to speak to the powers that be, and how can you prove that a not-for-profit project actually generates profit for the local economy? After the successful first edition of the USE-IT map, Jesús did a stakeholder study in Córdoba in hostels, at the official tourist info and with local businesses. With surprising results.


The final debate of the conference is a mix between presentation and discussion. Four people will give a five-minute answer to one question related to the conference: a trendwatcher, an economist, a tourism manager and an anthropologist. After the short pitch, there will be a short discussion, moderated by Nathalie De Neve including questions from the audience.

QUESTION FOR TREND RESEARCHER Ellen Anthoni: Is this a hype or a fundamental return to basic hospitality? Will the interaction between locals and tourists become mainstream or will it remain a niche thing for young / alternative travellers?

QUESTION FOR ECONOMIST Bart Neuts: From a strictly economic point of view, what are the consequences of integrating locals? Are they destroying the market or helping it along?

QUESTION FOR TOURISM MANAGER Miek De Roeck: Most tourist infos agree that they should diversify between different target groups in their communication and services. But if you say "target group" that also means selection. If you're not making something for everybody, who should make the choices? Are locals the best option?

QUESTION FOR ANTHROPOLOGIST Sam Janssen: How far can you go in interaction with locals? Can the "official" tourist industry actually play a role, or does that make it less "authentic"?

16:30 end of conference