Belgian tourist boards parade cats to lure back tourists after lockdown
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's tourist boards have latched onto a social media craze of cats that gave Brussels light relief during a tense five-day security lockdown in the wake of militant attacks in Paris.
Images of the city's streets deserted as security forces hunted suspected Islamist militants have dealt a blow to Belgium's tourism industry, with hotels reporting many cancellations.
When police on Sunday asked the public in Brussels not to share details of their operations on social media, Belgians took to tweeting each other pictures of their cats.
Capitalising on the social media hit, Belgium's three tourist authorities have now released a 20 second video film showing cats at Brussels's landmarks such as the historic Grand Place or the Atomium, which they said was filmed at the height of the lockdown.
The video depicts cats dancing all over the city, some wearing black bowler hats or with green apples in front of their faces in a nod to paintings of the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte.
In the background, a saxophone is heard, an invention of the Belgian Adolphe Sax. The original trend drew a warm response on social media, and the tourist authorities said they wanted to show how proud they were of Brussels and its residents for their good-humoured response to the crisis.
Belgium's capital has been on maximum alert since Saturday over the threat of a possible Paris-style attack. A coordinated assault in which 130 people were killed in Paris on Nov. 13 was claimed by Islamic State.
Brussels, home to the European Commission, reopened its metro system and schools on Wednesday, albeit with armed police and soldiers still patrolling.
"Tourism Flanders, Visit Brussels and Wallonia-Brussels Tourism are proud of the people of Brussels and wanted to give them an extra boost," they said. "Their winking cats evoked great sympathy at home and abroad."
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Raissa Kasolowsky)
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