Hastings was centre stage at a major maritime exhibition in Ostend, Belgium, last week.
‘Oostende voor Anker’ attracts around 250,000 visitors from across northern Europe, and Hastings’ marketing team was invited to attend by the show’s organisers.
As well as members of the council’s tourism team promoting Hastings, John (‘Tush’) and Pat Hamilton, who used to cook their ‘fishermen’s rolls’ at the exhibition, were on hand to talk about the town’s fishing heritage. And the town’s trolleybus, Happy Harold, made the long journey to Belgium and quickly became a star of the show, alongside the many sailing ships.
Cllr Kim Forward, deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council and lead member for tourism, said: “Hastings has exhibited at this show for many years, and we were very pleased to be invited back again this year. Belgium is our largest overseas market, and Belgian visitors contribute a lot to our visitor economy.
“Our stall was extremely popular, with our marketing team distributing Dutch, German and French literature, and Tush and Pat adding a real authentic flavour. They even brought a mermaid that used to be on display in their shop in the High Street, and helped recreate Hastings beach in Ostend, complete with deckchairs, sandcastles, and fishing equipment.
“Happy Harold, our 90 year old trolleybus, proved equally popular, being used by the organisers to carry VIPs to a memorial service to mark the Royal Navy’s blockade of Ostend exactly 100 years ago. This was attended by many dignitaries, including the British ambassador :- and many asked to have their photo taken in front of Happy Harold!
“There was extensive media coverage of the event, which provides publicity for Hastings that money just can’t buy.
“We have always been popular with Belgian visitors, and I am sure we will attract even more now.”