While the month of July was declared the hottest over the past 120,000 years before it had even ended and most of Europe is struggling in the face of heat storms, wildfires spreading from Greece to Portugal and every southern country in between, Belgium saw a mostly cold and rainy month of July, causing tourism to its coastal resorts to fall behind.
According to vrt news, over the month of July, about 5 million overnight stays were booked across the West Flanders towns, including at hotels, guesthouses and other types off accommodation. This is 10% less than during the same month last year.
On the other hand, the number of foreign tourists increased by 10%, particularly coming from France, Germany and the Netherlands, showing that the slump was caused by the lack of domestic tourism to the Belgian coast.
Seaside towns are usually bombarded with day or weekend holiday goers when the weather is hot and sunny. On such days, special trains have to be added to the network to carry all the beachgoers from their towns to the coast, especially to the most popular resorts like Oostende and Knokke-Heist. This year, on 8 and 9 July, the coast saw about 300,000 visitors. However, in the absence of more sunny weather, Belgians chose to avoid travelling west.
While the number of overnight stays at self-catering accommodation has remained similar to July 2022, the impact was noticeable in hotel occupancy, which was about 70% in July this year. In the same month last year, average hotel occupancy rate was 75-80%, with peaks of 95% or more on hot days.
Besides the weather impacting last minute reservations, the school holiday timeline is also attributed to the decrease in tourists, as summer holidays for French-speaking schools in Belgium started one week later in 2023 compared to previous years.
For the last summer month, bookings are still 7% below the August 2022 figures, however, if Belgium sees a little more sunshine this month before it returns to its grey, rainy autumn atmosphere, one or two good weekends could see tourist numbers recover for the coast resorts.