Record number of tourists in Flanders this year


2018 is well on its way to breaking records for tourism, according to minister Ben Weyts

‘Playing our trump cards’

There were 1 million more overnight stays in Flanders in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, good for an 8% increase. According to tourism minister Ben Weyts, 2018 is set to beat the record-breaking 2017 figures for the number of tourists in the region.

While the number of both inland and foreign tourists have grown, the numbers coming in from abroad are seeing the biggest growth. “Based on cultural added value, we are expecting the number of overnight stays by tourists from abroad to increase even more in the coming years,” says Weyts. “We are investing in our trump cards, such as the Flemish masters, to attract this target public to Flanders.”

The extra foreign visitors in the first half of this year – 750,000 more than last year – mostly came from neighbouring countries. Tourists from France and the UK were up by 12%, while Germans were up by 10%.

But tourists from much farther afield were also up, with Americans increasing by 17%, Brazilians by 20% and the Chinese by a whopping 24%. Weyts says that the notable growth in figures this year are due to campaigns that emphasise Flanders’ strengths: art, cycling culture and food and drink.

“The continued growth is mainly due to the work of the tourist sector itself,” he says. “It is an extremely resilient sector that is putting in a huge amount of work. Just two years ago, tourism was decreasing, but now we are reaching new heights.”

The terrorist attacks of March 2016  had a negative effect on tourism, but the sector bounced back quickly, making 2017 a record year. Brussels also had a good tourist year in 2017, reaching pre-2016 figures.

Photo courtesy VisitFlanders