Despite measures easing across the country, hotels in Brussels say they have yet to see a return to normal occupancy rates, with hotels sitting 30% full throughout the summer.
Low levels of tourism, which has yet to properly return to pre-pandemic levels, coupled with a lack of people travelling for work has left rooms empty across the region, Yves Fonck of the Brussels Hotels Association told the newspaper La Dernière Heure.
"The situation for hotels is better in August than in July,” Fonck explained. “But if you compare with 2019, we now have 70% fewer customers.” Borders staying closed, cancelled conferences and a ban on large gatherings deprived hotels in the city of their normal business flow.
- Despite weather, Belgian coast welcomes nearly 4 million tourists this summer
- Almost half of all hospitality employees lost job in sector during last year
- 5,000 new hotel rooms planned in Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent
"Today, 80% of our employees are temporarily unemployed [and are therefore entitled to financial aid]. This has been extended until the end of December for the hotel and catering sector, and we are happy about that," Fonck told BX1. "We are hoping for further measures to support our sector between now and 2021, because our cash flow is very difficult at the moment. If there is no help, there will be bankruptcies."
"By the end of the year, 50% of the Belgian market will recover, and 10 to 20% of the international market will return," he added.
Almost half of all people employed in the Belgian hospitality sector during the first quarter of 2020 no longer have a job in this sector, according to the Federal Public Service Economy’s Labour Force Survey, as previously reported.
The study compared the labour market status of the first quarter of last year - when the pandemic first hit Belgium - with the first quarter of this year and found that, although most people are still in employment, the rate of employment has not recovered as well in all sectors.
“We see a particular effect among workers in hotels and restaurants: of those who were working in hotels and restaurants in the first quarter of 2020, only two-thirds are employed a year later,” the report read.
In the first quarter of 2021, the sector employed 40.4% fewer people than during the same period in 2020.
The Brussels Times