Flemish minister for Tourism Zuhal Demir (N-VA) has called for the owners of second homes at the coast to be granted some compensation for the loss of the use of their property during the confinement caused by the coronavirus crisis.
This weekend, on what should have been the start of the Easter holidays for schools, the attention of police and media has been on the likelihood of owners of coastal property trying to get to their second homes, despite being strictly forbidden by the rules on non-essential journeys and the orders of the mayors of coastal towns.
Now, speaking to the local paper De Zondag, Demir has called for the owners of second homes to be given a voucher in compensation, and in preparation for the time when the restrictions are eventually lifted.
“I fear that tourism will be the last sector to be able to start up again,” she said. “The Easter holiday, traditionally a top season, has already been lost. That’s a small disaster. According to estimates from [tourism agency] Toerisme Vlaanderen, the coronavirus crisis will lead to a loss of earnings of no less than €1.5 billion a month,” she said.
She admitted that the coast mayors have a point in taking the measures they have at this time.
“I have spoken to various mayors,” she said. “I understand that they cannot at the moment allow second home owners to come. The reasons include the question of hospital capacity in the region.”
She also dismissed calls from some owners for relief from the tax levied in some communes on second homes.
“I’m not going to give local authorities tax advice,” she said. “That’s their own business.”
But she is calling for what she called “a small gesture,” in the form of a voucher – whose value would have to be determined – for use in local establishments like cafes and restaurants.
“That would kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, second home owners would get some compensation, and on the other, businesses would get a kick-start [when the situation comes back to normal]. The latter is my main concern, clearly.”