NEO scrl was established to bolster the international positioning of Brussels in the MICE sector. It was accordingly commissioned by the City and the Region to set up a new convention centre on the Heysel Plateau so as to enable Brussels to assume its vocation and international reach. It should in fact be borne in mind that Brussels is Europe’s and the world’s number one and number two congress city respectively. MICE is one of the most strategic economic sectors in the Brussels Region and accounts for 20,000 jobs. The International Development Plan (IDP) charted the ambition of the Brussels Region in the MICE sector as early as 2007.
On Friday, 16 October 2020, the City announced through the press that owing to uncertainties brought about by the health crisis, the public authorities had been forced to relinquish the NEO2 contract for the construction of a convention centre and a hotel in the immediate vicinity of Brussels Expo.
In point of fact, neither the hotel nor the convention centre could be adapted to the future needs of the MICE sector, which has been heavily and structurally affected by the health crisis. It would not have been possible for the public authorities to alter the project radically given the public procurement rules. Moreover, it would have been unreasonable to build a project of such scope and quality that would wind up being insufficiently used in the current situation. This project would have been unproductive not only for the public authorities but also for the private developers who had undertaken to operate a 250-room hotel on the site.
The fact remains nonetheless that MICE is still a critical sector for Brussels; that Heysel continues to be an attractive site from which all future thinking about MICE in Brussels will be articulated; and , with all the necessary resources to implement the MICE ambitions of Brussels, NEO scrl remains the preferred natural counterpart of the public authorities in this respect.
In any event, NEO scrl continues to work actively on implementing the other components of the investment programme aimed at redesigning the Heysel plateau. For example, work on the road linking Car Park C to the front of the halls and the extension of the Verregat park is continuing, the building permit for a new sports facility was granted recently, while the steps taken by the developer URW (whose project will create some 3,000 jobs and generate significant tax revenues for the public authorities) are continuing apace.