Arrivals by overnight-stay tourists
34% fewer tourists in summer 2020 than in summer 2019
In January and February 2020, the number of tourists arriving in the Flemish Region was respectively 10% and 11% higher than in the same months in 2019. However, from March to May 2020, there was a sharp decline in the number of arrivals. This was due to the lockdown measures that were put in place from mid-March 2020 on as part of the Covid-19 crisis. Between the 18th of March and the 7th of June, all accommodations except hotels were closed. In hotels, only overnight stays for non-tourist purposes were allowed. On the 8th of June, all establishments were allowed to open again, including tourist accommodations. As a result, the number of arrivals rose again in that month. In the months of July, August and September, 900,000, 700,000 and 535,000 arrivals respectively were registered. Compared to the same period in 2019, this represents a drop in the number of arrivals by 34% for the three summer months combined.
Over 10 million tourists arrived in the Flemish Region in 2019
In 2019, a total of 10.4 million tourists arrived in the Flemish Region. Almost 1 out of 4 were business travellers.
In the wake of the Brussels attacks in March 2016, fewer tourists arrived as compared to 2015. 2017 saw a clear recovery, which continued all through 2018, in which a considerably higher number of arrivals were registered than in 2017. Compared to 2015, Flanders welcomed almost 1.2 million extra arrivals in 2019. Between 2015 and 2019, the number of arrivals increased by an average of 3% per year.
In 2016, foreign tourists in particular ignored Flanders as a holiday destination. In 2019, we witnessed a rise in the number of both Belgian and foreign tourists compared to 2016 and 2018.
Hotels are holidaymakers’ preferred types of accommodation
In 2019, almost 6 in 10 arrivals were registered in hotels. Youth hostels and holiday parks accounted for respectively 11% and 10% of the arrivals. All other types of accommodation represented a share of less than 10%.
On average, tourists spend 1 to 2 nights at hotels and guest houses, 3 to 4 nights in youth hostels, holiday parks and camp sites, and up to 6 nights in holiday cottages.
Mainly domestic tourists and tourists from neighbouring countries
Belgian tourists and tourists from the neighbouring countries account for respectively 53% and 31% of all arrivals in the Flemish Region. Especially Dutch, but also German, French and British tourists frequently visit Flanders during their holidays. The remaining 15% of arrivals are arrivals by tourists from non-neighbouring countries.
Art cities and the seaside are most popular
In 2019, the 5 Flemish art cities (Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven and Mechelen) jointly accounted for 3.6 million or 35% of all tourist arrivals. Bruges and Antwerp each attracted more than 1 million arrivals.
Many tourists also visit the seaside: 21% of arrivals were registered in the seaside towns. Ostend (approximately 500,000 arrivals) and Koksijde, De Haan and Blankenberge were the most popular destinations (each welcoming from 260,000 to 290,000 arrivals)
All other municipalities together accounted for 45% of arrivals, with the largest numbers concentrated in just a few municipalities with holiday parks in the northeast of the Flemish countryside (“de Kempen”). A few other municipalities, such as Ypres, Hasselt and Kortrijk each welcome over 100,000 tourists per year. Machelen and Zaventem (airport area) also jointly accounted for more than 600,000 arrivals in 2019.
More arrivals in the Flemish Region than in other regions
In 2019, the Flemish Region drew 10.4 million arrivals, compared to 3.7 million in the Walloon Region and 3.9 million in the Brussels Capital Region.
Even though the Walloon and the Brussels Capital Region each attract almost the same number of arrivals, tourists spent less time in Brussels: an average 1.9 nights versus 2.4 nights in the Walloon Region. In the Flemish Region, tourists spent on average of 2.2 nights.
In the Flemish Region, 53% of the arrivals were arrivals by Belgians. In the Walloon Region, this share was slightly higher (60%). The Brussels Capital Region saw much fewer Belgian arrivals, with 76% of arrivals by foreign tourists.