Dance

Tomorrowland Gets New Life From Belgium's Goal to Reopen by September

DJ Tiesto, Tomorrowland
DAVID PINTENS/AFP via Getty Images

DJ Tiesto performs at the main stage on the first day of the Tomorrowland music festival on July 19, 2019 in Boom, Belgium.

The government says it wants to fully reopen the country, but capacity restrictions, masks and social distancing would still be required for large events.

Tomorrowland’s mammoth two-weekend festival planned for late summer got a shot in the arm on Tuesday (May 11), as the Belgium government announced a goal to fully reopen the country by Sept. 1.

Belgium plans to ease most lockdown measures starting on June 9, provided the country’s vaccination program continues its current momentum and that the number of people in intensive care units stays under 500, government officials said.

Initially, the government will only authorize indoor events -- including shows, exhibitions and theatres -- up to a maximum of 200 people. Outside, up to 400 people will be allowed to attend events, such as festivals and outdoor screenings of the 2020 European soccer competition, which was postponed from last year. And people will still be required to wear masks and socially distance for large events wherever they are held in the country.

That could prove challenging for Tomorrowland, one of the biggest EDM events in the world, which typically draws about 400,000 attendees to Boom, Belgium. The 2019 edition ran six days over two weekends. After canceling last year, the festival scheduled its annual flagship event, normally held in July, to Aug. 27-29 and Sept. 3-5, because of ongoing COVID-19 flareups in Europe.

It’s unclear whether the festival would need to adjust its planned dates or capacity to accommodate Belgium’s rules. Nevertheless, organizers sounded a hopeful note on Tuesday.

“We are delighted and grateful to hear that the Belgian Government has given a realistic perspective for large festivals in Belgium towards the end of the summer,” Tomorrowland said in a statement. “We want to study the guidelines and parameters from the National Government in the next days, so that we can properly communicate the different scenarios and implications.”

The festival went on to say that it believes it can make Tomorrowland “a safe place” with a combination of vaccinations and rapid testing at the door. “We will take every measure and guideline very seriously and apply all the right protocols,” the company said.

If Tomorrowland’s live event can go forward, it won’t be the first major dance festival to get back on its feet. EXIT in Serbia is still scheduled to hold its 20th anniversary edition on July 8-11, featuring David Guetta, DJ Snake and Tyga.

A few other major festivals, including Bonnaroo (Sept. 2-5) and Creamfields in the U.K., which will coincide with Tomorrowland’s first weekend, remain on the calendar. Other major events such as Burning Man and Electric Forest have canceled for 2021 and set their sights on returning in 2022.

As Billboard reported, while U.K. promoters are still on track to begin resuming large concerts after June 21, most major countries in continental Europe have struggled with higher infection rates and slower rates of vaccinations. More than 53% of the U.K. population has received at least one vaccine dose.

Tomorrowland is hoping to avoid the disappointment of EDC Las Vegas, which decided last month to postpone its planned May festival to October after Las Vegas’ Clark County changed its rules for events that could occur at 100% capacity without social distancing to include a requirement that 60% of residents be vaccinated. The festival had said it was a day away from announcing its artist lineup.

Since instituting a national lockdown at the beginning of the year, the health situation has improved in Belgium, where more than 24,500 people have died of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Daily infections have slowed by 4% since last week to a seven-day average of just over 3,000 infections a day. Almost 40% of the adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the country could reopen all sectors of the economy if 80% of the population with a pre-existing medical condition could be vaccinated, and if intensive care units maintain a level of 500 or fewer patients.

“The more people are vaccinated, the faster we will get our freedom back,” De Croo said at a news conference, Reuters reported.

Even if organizers are forced to postpone Tomorrowland’s live event once again, the festival company still plans to hold a virtual event in July, Tomorrowland: Around the World. Artists booked so far include Adam Beyer, Armin van Buuren and Nicky Romero.