Belgium’s hotel market back to levels of before 2016 terrorist attack

05 October 2018 3 min. read

Belgium’s hotel market has recovered remarkably from the impact of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, with the occupancy rate now back to the level of before the devastating terrorist event more than two years ago. 

On 22 March 2016, Belgium was rocked by the deadliest terrorist attack in its history. More than 30 civilians were killed and more than 300 injured after terrorists executed three coordinated suicide bombings, one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels and two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem.

The attacks left a deep scar in Brussels and cast a shadow on the city’s tourism market, which in its slipstream impacted the entire country’s hotel market as tourists by-passed Belgium to visit places perceived safer, including the north of France and the Netherlands. Data sourced from Horwath HTL, a consulting firm that specialises in the hotel industry, shows average occupancy rates in Belgium fell by more than 15 percentage points in the six months after the attack. In Europe’s political capital Brussels however, the development was even more gloomy, with occupancy rates slumping by more than 20 percentage points  between April and October 2016 

Belgium’s hotel market back to levels of before 2016 terrorist attack

As with most attacks, the tourism industry has recovered with the passing of time. A similar trend was seen in Paris and London after their attacks, while countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia have also all witnessed a recovery following a nose-dive in tourism volumes. By March 2017, hotels in Brussels were enjoying double-digit growth in occupancy rates, and by the end of last year the year average stood at 71.9%, up from 66.6% like-for-like the year previous. For 2018, the occupancy is expected to reach 73.1%, which if realised would be back to the level of before the attacks.

Tourists from abroad have been a major driver in the upturn. Across Belgium, the share of tourist guests jumped in 2017, from 37% to 46%, and at the same time tourists also enjoyed longer holidays: the total number of tourist overnight stays per hotel room increased by 35%. Cities which are particularly popular among foreigners are the medieval towns of Bruges and Ghent, and the larger cultural cities of Antwerp and Brussels.

Meanwhile, recovery among other segments was much slower. The share of aircrew as part of total tourist flow remained the same, while the share of business guests, conference guests and tour groups all decreased on the back of the strong increase in the tourist segment. On average, a hotel room in Belgium now costs €96 per night, which is higher than the pre-attack average of €92 per night.

The data from Horwath HTL focuses on the hotel segment, and does not include demand and supply for accommodations outside of hotels, including rooms/apartments offered on or Airbnb, as well as Bed & Breakfast and other private properties for short stay rental.