The non-profit Esch2022 European Capital of Culture has announced a new addition to the Esch2022 project: a virtual reality (VR) bus tour of Belval.

The nomination of Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg's second biggest city, as European Capital of Culture will see the south region evolve in the coming years, especially in the tourism and mobility sectors. Newly announced attractions include a VR bus tour of Belval, an augmented reality guide for smartphones and testimonials provided by both visitors to the region as well as residents will be additional arguments for discovery.

The details of the project were revealed at a press event held on Thursday morning. By 2022 at the latest, the projects of the European Capital of Culture and its partners are expected to attract many visitors to the ten municipalities of the Luxembourg association Pro-Sud as well as than in the eight French municipalities of the Communauté du Haut Val de l’Alzette (CCPHVA). It is from this perspective that the themes of mobility and tourism play a key role for Esch2022.

To draw visitors' attention to the existing offer, tourism marketing is also important, as Thierry Kruchten, Head of Tourism and Mobility at Esch2022, recalled: "Tourism and mobility are linked, always concern how to enable visitors and tourists to go from point A to point B. This Capital of Culture project can only be successful if arrivals and departures, but also local travel, complement each other".

By 2022, two digital projects will see the light of day; these two projects were developed and implemented by Esch2022 in partnership with Urban Timetravel S.A., with the advisory support of the City of Luxembourg. The time travel in Belval project will allow the public to discover the history of the region and learn more about its industrial heritage thanks to virtual reality (VR). From February 2022, visitors will be able to take a seat on a bus that will travel across Belval; thanks to virtual reality glasses, they will be transported to another era. A similar project is already underway in Luxembourg City. The City of Esch-sur-Alzette and the municipality of Sassenheim will jointly ensure that the project continues after 2022.

From February 2022, visitors will also be able to discover their environment thanks to a virtual guide. Indeed, an application for smartphone and tablet based on augmented reality technology is being developed for Esch2022. It allows the smartphone camera to recognise certain objects and buildings in the region and will provide the user with additional information about them in the form of photos, texts and videos. This free app will be available for iOS and Android. In Luxembourg, it is already possible to discover the capital using a similar application.

In a less technical register, another project will invite visitors to discover the region: Travel Stories, a kind of travel blog which will be published this summer on the Esch2022 website and which will gradually be enriched with stories evoking known or less known places in the region as well as anecdotes relating to the traditions and festivities of the south. Residents will also be able to send their testimonies for publication.

Whilst Esch2022 plays on the continuity of what exists, the project also focuses on novelty. The development of local tourism will continue in partnership with CCPHVA stakeholders, and the historic heritage will be at the forefront. This will be the case, for example, with the monument to the Crypte de Thil in the village of the same name, or the mining museum (Musée des Mines de fer) in Aumetz. Throughout the Esch2022 region, existing offers will be further expanded and those already present in the fields of tourism and mobility will be connected to each other.

Close collaboration at all levels is expected to ensure that the Capital of Culture projects will continue by 2022 and that they can continue to serve thereafter, in the spirit of long-term development. "Esch2022 gives us the opportunity to realise our projects faster [...]. I am convinced that together we can enhance the tourist appeal of the region", commented Lynn Reiter, director of the Regional Tourist Office South (ORT Sud) at the press event.

Sebastian Reddeker, Managing Director of Luxembourg for Tourism (LFT), also praised cooperation with Esch2022, in which he saw the opportunity to enhance the south region in the long term and to make it a tourist destination of choice: "Esch2022 will further stimulate the development of tourism and demand, and we look forward to the close and promising cooperation that exists within the team and among all partners".