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Analysis

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

When the terror threat level was placed at maximum (4) in the Belgian capital on Saturday November 2015, stymieing tourism activity in the city, authorities decided to lower the risk to 3 at the end of the following Friday. Hoteliers are thus waiting for their performance levels to return to normal.

[Published 11/27/15 - Last update 12/02/15]

Thursday [November 26], at the end of the afternoon, authorities lowered the level of threat in the Belgian capital. It went from "serious and imminent threat" (4) to "possible and likely threat" (3), allowing Brussels to continue a normal life, although police surveillance and military presence in the streets is ongoing. The metro returned to life throughout the network this Friday morning [November 27], although it will be shut down at 10pm, most tourist and cultural sites reopened, except for concert halls (Forest National, Palais 12, Cirque Royal, AB, Botanique) which will remain closed until Monday, November 31; soccer matches will take place as scheduled. As for major events, each situation will be examined individually to be either canceled, postponed, or maintained with special protection implemented.

Different activities in the city were resumed, renewing hoteliers' hopes after their results fell sharply during the five days of maximum alert. By Saturday [November 21] occupancy rates of properties had dropped by 13.9 points according to data published by MKG Hospitality, and the drop worsened over the days to surpass 50% on Wednesday [November 25]. The impact on the Revenue per available room (RevPAR) and the turnover was thus significant, dropping by -17% on the first day and -65.7% by the fifth day. "The security measures - taken, that we understand - necessarily had an immediate impact on the OR last weekend. There is also a mid-term impact that it is still too early to estimate but that is evidently extremely serious and will require measures supporting the sector. Today, the priority is not accounts, but communications or rather a correction of communications," declared Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh, secretary general Brussels Hotel Association (BHA).



Hotel performances in Brussels - From 11/16/2015 to 12/02/2015




The return to normal for the streets of Brussels could nonetheless attenuate this trend. At least this is what Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh hopes: "Brussels problem does not lie in the security measures that have been taken to protect everyone, but in the way social networks have relayed them, with exception to the surreal and salutary episode of cats! Today, the level of threat has been lowered to 3 and there is an urgent need to restore the image of Brussels. The museums and attractions have reopened and the Brussel's  Christmas market opened today [November 27]".

According to the secretary general of the BHA, while tourists legitimately ask for information, they are reassured by the security measures implemented in Brussels that show that public authorities hare assuming their responsibilities. "The decision to raise the level of threat to the maximum in Brussels was taken for our own security, that of residents and of visitors. The fact that public authorities did not hesitate to raise the level to 4 shows that no risks were taken for the security of residents and travelers. So it is no exaggeration to say that security comes before economic interests... Europe overall must  by vigilant wherever security has become a priority," concludes Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh.

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