The Hotel Metropole, the iconic hotel on Place De Brouckère in central Brussels, is on the verge of closing with the loss of 129 jobs, management said.
In a statement given to Bruzz, the hotel said, “Due to the structural difficulties of the past five years and the current economic situation, we no longer have the necessary financial resources to guarantee the continuation of our hotel activity. We are now considering stopping everything permanently.”
The Metropole dates back to 1895, and remains in the hands of family shareholders. It is the only five-star hotel in the capital that does not belong to an international chain.
However that independence must also be part of the reason for its recent financial difficulties. The last five years have seen tourism in Brussels injured by terrorist attacks, and now by the coronavirus lockdown. In between, the works on the pedestrian zone outside the hotel’s front entrance have caused endless disruption.
“Since the hotel was inaccessible to vehicles for several months and was confronted with a hole in front of the door for a long time, noise from the various construction sites cost it much of its appeal, both for private individuals and for professional event organisers.”
At the same time, while other hotels have compensated by turning to business tourism, the Metropole is more suited to receiving rock stars than conference guests.
Most of the staff are already on temporary unemployment because of the lockdown, and the hotel has now begun the consultation procedure required by law in the case of mass redundancies.
Unions meanwhile issued a joint statement saying they were not surprised at the decision to close, but claimed the management was making use of the coronavirus crisis to push through its decision. And they complained that no serious effort had been made to find a buyer.
The so-called Renault procedure started earlier this week, and the next meeting between owners and unions is planned to take place on May 4.
Elsewhere, Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh of the Brussels Hotel Association warned that the closure of the Metropole was an omen of what could be on the way for the rest of the sector.
“If the Brussels region doesn’t show more commitment to supporting the sector, others may follow,” he said. “The coronavirus is simply the last straw, but the hotel sector has been bleeding for some time.”