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Brussels: December is off to a difficult start for the hotel industry despite the Christmas market

Once the terrorism alert levels fell, in the Belgian capital, the Christmas market, Plaisirs d’Hiver, is struggling to attract visitors. Considerably impacted by the drop in arrivals, the city's hotel activity could nonetheless make a progressive return to normal in the second half of the month.

Winter Wonders, one of the two most popular Christmas markets in Belgium along with the one in Liege, opened within a difficult context. Its chalets were alight last November 27, just following a period of maximum terrorist threats that were slightly lowered the day before (read our article). Attendance at the event in the first two weeks of December were thus significantly impacted by the fear of a terrorist threat, particularly among foreign visitors.

The hotel industry is among the first industries directly affected by the drop in the number of tourists in the Belgian capital, as data from MKG Hospitality's daily observatory shows. On the first 17 days of December, the Revenue per available room (RevPAR) at properties fell by 24.9%, primarily due to the 19.6 point drop in occupancy rate. The average daily rate, meanwhile, decreased by 0.9%. The mild and humid weather conditions were another factor that were not conducive to creating a Christmas atmosphere.

Change in hotel performances in Brussels
From December 1to 17 décembre 2015

The drop in hotel performances nonetheless seems to diminish in the first few days of the second fortnight in December, while tourist authorities speak of a return to normal regarding the numbers of people in waling about the city streets. "After a tumultuous beginning of December, Brussels appears to be coming up for air. Even foreign tourists are heading back to the the capital of Europe," declared Philippe Close, Brussels Alderman for Tourism, to the local press prior to adding "We have not yet reached figures for visitors seen in previous years, but the city is making a return to normal". In fact while the drop in the RevPAR at Brussels' hotels was close to -40% at the beginning of the month, the drop fell below -10% the December 16 and  17. As far as concerns the leap by more than 37% in the indicator on December 1, this may be explained by the general strike in Belgium  on December 15, 2014, that paralyzer the hotel industry.

While the trend continues in the following days, particularly with the return of foreign tourists, the hotel industry in the city could limit the consequences of recent events on its hotel business.

Also read:

  • Brussels: as the level of threat decreases, hotels hope business will pick up

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