This week's message from the National Security Council was clear: we can gradually start to pick up the threads of life before coronavirus. For Ostend, this means that residents, visitors and second-home owners will soon be able to fully enjoy the beach, sea and city once again. Like shops, from Monday onwards Ostend’s cafes, bars and restaurants will once again be ready to welcome everyone with open arms, naturally taking the necessary precautions.
Scenarios from green to red
In the past weeks, the ‘Summer 2020’ plan has been further developed and adapted in line with the recent relaxations. The aim remains to ensure that everyone can enjoy a safe and pleasant summer in Ostend. External expertise was brought on board and the experience of reopening the shopping streets was also taken into account. The result is a dynamic and flexible plan with measures that can be adjusted in line with the level of activity in the city or the guidelines of the National Security Council.
To make things clear to everyone, Ostend will work with four crowd-level scenarios, each with its own colour code: green, yellow, orange and red. Providing residents and visitors with good information both online and on site will make it possible to spread the crowds across the various beaches, seawall, city centre and outskirts as much as possible.
Most of the beaches will remain freely accessible
Within this flexible plan, the beaches will be freely accessible for most of the summer with no registration required. Social distancing on the beaches remains important. A beach windbreak or similar is recommended for this purpose, but not mandatory. People can also mark out their spot in a different way.
Prior registration for the beaches will only be necessary on the very busiest days of the summer and only on Ostend's three busiest beaches: the Klein Strand, the Groeistrand and the Groot Strand (up to the Venetian Galleries). These busy days will be announced at least three days in advance, based on the weather forecasts and visitor numbers in recent years. We are currently expecting a maximum of ten of these peak days, mainly on the weekends between 15 July and 15 August.
Wide range of recreational and cultural activities
Registration for these three beaches on peak days is and remains completely free, whether for local residents, second-home owners, hotel guests or day trippers. You can register online at www.visitoostende.be or call the freephone number 0800 1 8400. After registering, people will receive an e-ticket that will be scanned at the entrance to the three beaches. People can take the e-ticket with them on their smartphone, print it out themselves or collect it from the Tourism Ostend desk (open 7 days a week).
This system ensures that everyone can enjoy the beach even on the busiest days, while maintaining sufficient distance from other people. This summer, Ostend is also focusing on a wide range of recreational and cultural activities so that visitors and residents can enjoy everything else the city has to offer. For this, we are working with a number of local partners, including TAZ (Theater aan Zee), De Grote Post, Mu.ZEE, Ostend Film Festival and The James Ensor House.
‘Summer team’ to steer people in the right direction
Beachgoers who have not registered in advance on these peak days will naturally be able to visit Ostend’s many other beaches. Stewards from the ‘summer team’, which will operate throughout the city all summer long, will guide people and therefore help to ensure social distancing.
The ‘summer team’, for which the City of Ostend will be looking for additional student workers from next week, will be deployed on the beaches, the seawall, in the shopping streets, at the station and at the car parks in the centre and on the outskirts of the city. The stewards form the first point of contact and will help everyone to have an enjoyable time in Ostend.
Smart and dynamic mobility
As the beaches, seawall and city centre are actually ‘interconnected vessels’ in terms of crowds, the plan focuses heavily on crowd control and smart mobility. The mobility plan is primarily aimed at visitor distribution, even upon arrival in the city. The City of Ostend will constantly monitor the access roads and public transport, as well as the pedestrian flow on the seawall and in the city centre.
All the available data (mobility, beaches, shopping streets, etc.) will be analysed live this summer and exchanged with Tourism Flanders and Westtoer (Tourism West Flanders) in order to gain an overview of the general levels of activity along the entire coast. The city is drawing on the expertise of a number of partners for this. For mobility and crowd control, the partners are Scelta Mobility and TO B-Seen; these partners have gained experience with the Tour of Flanders, De Warmste Week and the Rock Werchter and Tomorrowland festivals. The city is collaborating with Stay Alert and The Media House on beach registrations and the action plan for safe shopping.
New phase in shopping street circulation plan
The circulation plan in the shopping streets has been modified in close consultation with the shop owners, following a new evaluation. Kapellestraat will be accessible in two directions from Monday 8 June, whereby walking on the right is the new rule. The social distancing rules (1.5 metres) remain in force. Stewards will still supervise people where necessary and street entertainment will be provided during the Father's Day weekend.
The safety plan in the shopping streets is also a dynamic plan. At busy times, one-way pedestrian traffic can be reintroduced to ensure safety. Cycling will remain prohibited in the busiest shopping streets (including after 8 June), in order to ensure social distancing.