The coronavirus crisis has severely damaged Brussels’ hotel sector, which is now suffering from a lack of tourists and visitors.
At the moment, only half of the region’s hotels have reopened their doors to their guests, due to a lack of clientele. And those open hotels have an occupancy rate of around 20%. However, considering that half of the hotels are still closed, in real terms the occupancy rate is only 10%, down by -90% if compared to July 2019. This means that nine out of ten rooms are empty.
Brussels, as any other big city, is strongly dependent on international tourism. In the Brussels region, international tourist arrivals account for 85% of the total; thus, Brussels tourism sector was not able to compensate with local tourism.
According to Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh, director of Brussels Hotel Association (BHA), the hotel sector had already experienced a deep crisis after the terrorist attacks, but never hitting such low occupancy rates as this last semester. “It is out of proportion with what we live today. It is absolutely not comparable. Today it is an activity which has been reduced to almost nothing since the beginning of March,” he declared.
Van Weyenbergh said that the month of August won’t bring any improvement. For this reason, the director is asking for more governmental aid to help the struggling hotel sector recover from the crisis.
To rescue the hotel industry, Brussels Region created a law which will grant a bonus of €200 per room per month, starting from mid-March, until the end of August: five and a half months in total. The law was decided in July. Now the director is calling for its urgent implementation.
The Brussels Hotel Association also wants the federal government to take additional measures which are vital for the tourism sector, in particular concerning the hotel charges. Indeed, the government has postponed the tax payment, but the hotel industry will not be able to deal with the payments later anyway. “Loans and deferral of charges will not solve this unprecedented crisis,” added Van Weyenbergh.
The only way to help the sector recovering and to bring tourists back is to curb the epidemic. Only in this way will it be possible to save a sector that only in Brussels generates nearly 30,000 jobs.