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Brussels tourism breaks records

January 15, 2019 European News No Comments

Tourist are coming back to Brussels in their droves. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2018, almost 8.5 million overnight stays were recorded in the capital. What’s more, the leisure tourism sector is undergoing a significant evolution and for the first time, is reaching the levels of the professional sector.

Every year, Brussels welcomes millions of visitors and the number of tourists visiting the capital has increased steadily over the past two years. 2018, the year of the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the tourist era in Brussels, ended on a positive note with a 8.7 % increase in overnight stays compared to 2017 (all types of accommodation combined). Brussels also has one of the highest growth rates in hotel attendance in all European cities.

(Source: Olakala and European cities marketing)

There is a high attendance rate for the months of September, October and November. This trend is explained, among other things, by the intensive activity of the professional sector during this period, with an occupancy rate close to 90%. In addition, peaks in attendance are recorded at international events such as Seafood, and European Union or NATO summits, etc.

The key figures:
Occupancy rate: 74.60% (+5.5 % compared to 2017)
(Source: Olakala, data provider mandated by
Overnight stays in all tourist accommodation: 8.5 million (+8.7% compared to 2017)
(Source: estimation for the last three months of the year based on the occupancy rate)

The leisure sector in full expansion
The leisure sector has seen an impressive increase in overnight stays (+23%) compared to the previous year. For the first time, it reached the same level as the professional sector.

The occupancy rate of hotels on weekends grew slightly faster (+6.6%) than on weekdays (+4.4%).

Brussels, a European leader for the organisation of associative congresses

Brussels offers a number of significant advantages for congress organisers. From its favourable geographical location to the existence of a solid network of international associations and the development of meeting places, the region’s reputation is well established.

For the 5th consecutive year, Brussels is the top European destination for international associative congresses and 2nd in the world ranking, according to the UIA report published in 2018.

International markets
The top 5 nationalities that most frequently visit the capital are:
1. French: 10.7% of overnight stays in Brussels (+10% compared to 2017)
2. Spanish: 7.3% (+13% compared to 2017)
3. British: 6.8% (+10% compared to 2017)
4. American: 6.7% (+17% compared to 2017)
5. German: 6.6% (+8% compared to 2017)
The Asian market grew the fastest compared to 2017: +28% (Japan); +21% (India); +15% (China)

(Source: SPF Intérieur)

Attractions and museums

Over the period from January to October 2018, Brussels’ attractions and museums recorded a 4% increase in attendance.

Europe-related attractions generate the highest growth (House of European History, Parliamentarium, Mini-Europe)

Satisfied visitors
88% of visitors would recommend the capital to their relatives after their visit. They are particularly positive regarding the reception of the inhabitants, their accommodation, as well as the quality of their meals.

“The excellent results recorded in 2018 confirm that the strategy developed by in recent years is bearing fruit. The objective set in 2010 to double the number of overnight stays in 10 years to 10 million overnight stays is now, more than ever, within reach” Minister-President Rudi Vervoort

“Since the beginning of the legislature, my Government has been committed to strengthening the tourism sector. First of all, we implemented the regionalisation of tourism.

Various non-profit organisations have also been merged to strengthen

Following the terrorist attacks, we immediately put in place the necessary measures to ensure the recovery of our region’s tourism industry, by launching targeted campaigns. The efforts of all stakeholders have made it possible to achieve these exceptional results. We are all delighted because with these results comes the creation of jobs”

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