The number of overnight stays in the Flemish Region for the Carnival holidays once again reached the level of the pre-coronavirus year 2019, according to estimates from Tourism Flanders.
As well as people from within Belgium booking more overnight stays, the number of foreign visitors in the region also increased slightly, a hopeful and welcome sign for the tourism industry in the region, which suffered tremendous blows as a result of the pandemic.
"For two years, dark clouds hung over our tourism sector. But slowly the silver lining is becoming visible. These figures confirm that we are gradually climbing out of the doldrums," Flemish Tourism Minister Zuhal Demir said.
"We're not there yet, but it is a great boost for the many tourism entrepreneurs in Flanders who have had, and often still have a hard time," she added.
One-fifth more visitors at Belgian coast
As was the case in 2020 and 2021, the domestic market remains the stronghold but foreign visitors are also gradually returning with the easing of travel measures and the continuously improving epidemiological situation in Belgium.
The number of domestic overnights increased by 42% compared to in 2019, while the foreign ones are still 24% lower, but these figures are noticeably better than in the previous holiday periods. For example, during the Christmas holidays, the number of visitors from outside the country was 28% lower compared to the period in 2019.
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"Finally, our tourism entrepreneurs can also welcome foreign visitors again," said Demir. "We missed them enormously during the last two difficult years."
The largest increase in the number of overnight stays was seen at the Belgian coast, where the total number (including foreign and domestic visitors), rose by 20%. Meanwhile, the art cities in the region recorded the lowest growth (-9%), but this figure too is improving.
"We know that our art cities took the biggest hit during the crisis because of the absence of foreign visitors. That is why last year we and Tourism Flanders launched a targeted campaign abroad to highlight their assets and we are already seeing the first cautious results," Demir concluded.