In the first quarter of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic first reached Belgium, hotels in Brussels recorded a fall in income of 24%. A crushing blow, but things were to get much worse.
According to figures from the Brussels Hotel Association (BHA), the sector closed the year with income down 90% in the fourth quarter, compared with the same period in 2019.
The first quarter was merely a shadow of the storm to come: in the second quarter, when the first lockdown was imposed, income fell by 91%.
Even the third quarter, when the general lockdown was lifted and the summer was on the doorstep, income fell by 73%, despite the fact that people were largely reluctant to travel abroad because of the risk of being stranded, and despite strenuous campaigns by local tourism organisations to sell holidays at home.
And now, once the accounts for the fourth quarter are in, the association is announcing a 90% drop income for the quarter.
The BHA is now calling for federal and regional governments to take a new look at the support mechanisms put in place earlier in the year. That includes the system of temporary unemployment due to force majeure, which at present is due to run out at the end of March.
Among the details, the BHA wants the reviewed system to take account of the hidden costs of temporary unemployment, which include holiday allowances and end-of-year premiums, which hotels are still liable for as employers, although the temporary unemployment system does not cover them.
Among its other demands, the association would like the government to consider a full or at least partial amnesty on property taxes for the months in question. And for those hoteliers who rent, a tax credit for owners to encourage them to waive rents for the same period.