Now that it appears that De Efteling has been favored during the corona crisis, the question is how important the amusement park is for the municipality of Loon op Zand. According to former councilor Gerard Bruijniks, the Efteling millions are extremely important. The amusement park knows that too. Efteling has threatened to leave if it doesn’t get its way, the former councilor knows.
Documents that the municipality of Loon op Zand made public at the request of Omroep Brabant show that Efteling was able to get things done more easily than other entrepreneurs during the corona crisis.
‘Whole families work there’
Gerard Bruijniks (61) was an alderman in the municipality of Loon op Zand for ten years. He was the Efteling councilor until January 1, 2022 and has therefore experienced most of the corona crisis. “The Efteling is extremely important for the municipality of Loon op Zand,” says Bruijniks.
The former councilor says that ‘many’ residents of Loon op Zand work at Efteling. “There are entire families who work there. If you are at a birthday party somewhere, there is always someone from Efteling.”
More than 2 million every year
The most recent annual accounts for 2021 show that the municipality collected 2.2 million euros in tourist tax. The amusement park also generates a fair amount of property taxes.
Bruijniks says that in his time it amounted to 2 to 2.5 million euros, out of the total municipal budget of 70 million euros. “The tourist tax is actually paid by the people who enjoy themselves as tourists. This means that roads and all kinds of facilities are also being constructed. These are not paid by the residents, but by Efteling,” says Bruijniks.
Straight back from the municipality
Anyone who is paid by Efteling are lawyers. Bruijniks says: “Big money can hire people with knowledge and skills to indicate what they want and how. They know the legal rules. But then I still see a straight back at the municipality of Loon op Zand that says: ‘This far and no further.’ The municipality looks at the interests of Efteling, but certainly also of its residents.”
The municipality also kept its straight back when Efteling threatened to leave the municipality, says Bruijniks: “They have sometimes threatened to move. That was about whether or not to expand the park. It didn’t make me feel hot or cold, but it did give me jitters.” In a response, Efteling says that this has never been seriously discussed.
Thinking about how things can be improved
The documents requested by Omroep Brabant show, among other things, that officials are thinking along with Efteling. For example, suggestions are made to word some plans slightly differently, so that it is legally permitted. Bruijniks says: “Of course that happens. But always from the bigger perspective, the bigger plan at hand. Then thinking about how things can be improved is of course very good.”
When asked whether it is not difficult to take action against the company in which the municipality has such large financial interests, Bruijniks says: “No. Everyone is equal and interests are weighed in the same way. The importance was to get corona under it. And you don’t do that by turning a blind eye every now and then.”
Municipality without Efteling
What would the municipality of Loon op Zand look like without Efteling? Bruijniks: “Then it was still a very beautiful municipality,” says the former councilor.
“With a lot of manual labor, but fewer people working in a beautiful amusement park. Also with less public transport. Now we can go to Tilburg and Den Bosch every ten minutes, with national connections. We wouldn’t have had that without Efteling.”
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