Terrorist attacks had limited effects on business, study shows


A study by the economy ministry shows that the 2016 bomb attacks in Zaventem and Brussels and the 2015 ‘lockdown’ had little impact on most sectors

‘Showed resilience’

The terrorist attacks in Brussels a year ago and the events in Paris the previous November had an enormous human effect but surprisingly little economic impact, according to a study by the federal economy ministry. “The economy rapidly recovered,” said work minister Kris Peeters. “People are resilient.”

Economic growth in Belgium was 1.2% in 2016, according to the National Bank and the European Commission, half of what it might have been without the attacks. Some sectors – such as tourism, air travel, hospitality and events – were more seriously affected than others.

In some cases, Peeters took emergency measures to extend the system of temporary unemployment, where workers can be temporarily put on hold and receive benefits, to give businesses breathing room.

“People and companies gave the best response possible to the terrorists,” Peeters said.
“They carried on. They showed their resilience. Our country and our economy refused to bow down. That’s the positive note I’m taking from this.”

Several sectors suffered, however, including tourism in Brussels. In the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks, including the period when Brussels was under lockdown, hotel overnight stays were down 20% on the previous year.

Things picked up in January and February, before the Brussels attacks in March, when figures dipped again by some 35% and stayed depressed for longer. Retail sales in the first quarter were 2.8% lower than the same period in 2015.

Brussels Airport lost an estimated €105 million over the whole of 2016, including 12 days when it was completely closed following the March attack in its departure hall.

December 2015 was the most successful month in the airport’s history in terms of the number of passengers. The airport closed 2016 with a profit of €17.5 million, €2.5 million of which was paid in bonuses to airport staff in recognition of their dedication in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Photo: Tom Dhaenens