‘The worst is yet to come’ for Belgium’s hospitality industry

‘The worst is yet to come’ for Belgium’s hospitality industry
Credit: Jules Johnston/The Brussels Times

Amid a coronavirus lockdown which has shut down normal operations for the hospitality sector in Belgium (Horeca) industry experts have warned that the worst is yet to come.

“We haven’t yet experienced the worst”, fears Thierry Neyens, the president of the Fédération Horeca Wallonie, while no date has yet been set for the sector’s recovery. This uncertainty is causing a significant upset in the sector, he wrote in L’Avenir on Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, the lockdown extension until 3 May saw no further information for the sector on when things could change.

“Federal and Walloon support and aid must therefore also be prolonged. As for social security and employer’s contributions, deferrals won’t be enough,” Neyens explained. He also flagged that with the prolonged measures, the sector faces difficulties building cash flow, an issue which will not be fixed just by cancelling some of the payments required.

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The sector – which employs some 186,000 people in Belgium – has already voiced concerns over the lockdown implications. The measure will be “a catastrophe” for the food and drinks industry, according to Philippe Trinne, vice-president of Horeca Bruxelles, the sector’s professional federation in March.

“These are exceptional measures, extremely tough, but probably necessary faced with a worldwide pandemic,” he said. “The authorities have a lot of health data that we don’t have.”

Projections in March said the industry stood to lose about €1.7 billion when it was announced that the  Coronavirus lockdown would continue through Easter. The financial impact in light of the new measures is yet to be confirmed.

The hotel and catering sector is “already fragile, even in normal times” added Neyens. “Today, it’s bled dry. But we have to take advantage of the shutdown to rethink our model. Because the whole economic model is going to change,” he added.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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