As over 70,000 people were counted on the busy shopping street Rue Neuve in Brussels again on Saturday, shopping is back with a vengeance now that the pandemic seems to be on its last legs in Belgium.
"Traffic in Rue Neuve is a good indicator of the general health of the city centre," said Isabelle Grippa, CEO of the agency for business support hub.brussels.
This was a higher figure than the average number in January 2020, just before the pandemic took hold, despite the fact that January is typically a busy shopping month due to sales.
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Other figures also bode well for the economy: in March, Rue Neuve welcomed 44,300 people, just a bit lower than the 44,700 people who passed by the street in November 2019.
Not back to normal yet
Still, daily traffic on Rue Neuve was 17% lower in January 2022 compared to January 2020, meaning it is not quite back to normal. February, too, lagged behind 13.7% the same pre-pandemic month.
However, the main conclusion of these figures is that Rue Neuve is starting to come back as the number one shopping area in Brussels, after it had lost out to Porte de Namur during the pandemic due to the absence of tourists and the daily commute of residents.
It is not just Rue Neuve that is back on track, but also the surrounding area of Place Rogier and Place de la Monnaie are drawing more people again. Almost all shopping districts in the city centre are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
"The fact that [shopping] is back, even though tourist numbers are not yet at their peak, bodes well for the city centre's retail and hospitality sector as a whole," Grippa said.