Terrorist attacks had ‘serious effect’ on tourism


Last year’s tourism figures plummeted, a result of the terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport and in the metro, but have since recovered

‘Resilient industry’

The terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport and the Maalbeek metro station in March 2016 had a significant effect on tourism in Flanders, according to Visit Flanders’ annual report. The report was presented by tourism minister Ben Weyts at the weekend.

The number of overnight stays by foreign tourists in the region was nearly 29,100,000, a drop of 5.6% compared to 2015, which had been a record year. The number of Belgian tourists overnighting in Flanders, on the other hand, fell by only 0.4%.

The number of British visitors was down 20%, while Americans were down by 25%. Japanese tourists were down by a whopping 45%.

At the same time, every other European country saw its tourist numbers increase by an average 2% – with the exception of those affected by terrorism. That includes France, which was down by 2%, and Turkey, with visitor numbers tumbling by 31%.

In Belgium, “the attacks of 22 March took place in the middle of the traditional booking season,” noted Weyts. Tourism did recover by the end of the year, with increases in visitors from France, Spain and Denmark.

According to Visit Visit Flanders’ hotel barometer, January and February saw 50% to 55% accommodations booked – a better result than in the same period in 2015 and 2016. “The tourism industry has a formidable resilience,” Weyts said. “The road to a full recovery is long, but the first steps have been taken. Our tourist treasures and our industry remain strong.”

Photo: Milo Profi/Visit Flanders