Brussels Falls – Annus Horribilis for the Capital of Europe

The Eurocrats in Brussels have been having a tough time grappling with the problems of Brexit and how to deal with the new Trump administration. Meanwhile in the real world, the Hoteliers of Brussels are having to cope with a major down-turn in business following terrorist attacks in the city last year.

Brussels is a place that Salon Consulting knows well, having conducted several assignments here in recent years. We regularly monitor business activity in the city and have a number of clients with properties or projects in the area. Furthermore, we are fans of the way that the local DMO Visitbrussels go about their business under the excellent leadership of Patrick Bontinck, himself a former hotelier.

Results for 2016 have just been published and the reading isn’t pretty. Overall room occupancy for the year was 61%, down significantly by 11 points of occupancy on 2015. Average room rate was also down, more marginally at 106 Euros, a reduction of 1.85 Euros on 2015.

This must also be looked at in the context of a poor end to 2015 (overall occupancy 73%) as the city was in “lockdown” mode during December 2015 as the effects of the Paris attacks and the tracing of suspects back to Brussels and Belgium made its effect felt. Of course the real damage was done on the morning of 22nd March 2016 when the airport and a city-centre metro station were attacked by ISIL suicide bombers and 32 civilians were killed and over 300 people injured.

In December 2015 occupancy in the city had fallen to 52% – compared to a “normal” level for a December of around 72%. In the first two months of 2016 occupancies were almost normal but post the March attack the gap widened again to over 20 points of occupancy, so by June, traditionally one of the busiest months of the year in Brussels, hotels were only 66% full compared to 86% the previous year.

These results show, yet again, what devastation terrorism can play in a destination economy. In 2013 Brussels had 6.3 million overnight stays and was working towards a strategic objective of reaching 10 million by 2020. Now Visitbrussels has the more urgent task of getting business back to the levels prior to the events of 2015/6. We wish them well.