The hotel market in Belgium, as elsewhere, has taken a huge hit from the pandemic. The virus spread and lockdown measures have drastically reduced business and leisure travel, and led to severe operational disruptions in the lodging sector
Latest data shows that more than 50 per cent of hotels in Brussels have yet to reopen even though they were allowed to do so from 8 June. The reason given is that most tourists and business travellers have yet to return to the city because of the health crisis.
The Brussels Hotel Association states that hotel occupancy in the Brussels Capital Region is a meagre 3.9% compared with 81.7 per cent at the same time last year. Worse still, the BHA says it does not expect a return to “business as usual” for some time, with a 15% occupancy forecast over the summer period, rising to a maximum of 30% later in the autumn when many hotels say they will reopen.
“So far, we have just opened one restaurant (we have 3 in Brussels), 1 bar (we have 5 in Brussels) and 2 hotels (we have 5 in Brussels),” a spokesman for Thon Hotels said. “Occupancy rates is really really low. A maximum 5%.”
The situation is much the same in other parts of Europe with the biggest reported drops in hotel occupancy seen in Milan (94.5%) and Rome (90.5%). Their occupancy rates are currently 4% and 6.6%, respectively. Italy has been one of the EU countries worst hit by the pandemic.
Occupancy rates, which range between 70% to 100% in the world’s largest cities under normal conditions, hit rock bottom as expected at the peak of the virus. But other EU capitals have fared slightly better than in Italy: Athens has a 14% occupancy rate, Prague 17% and Paris 19.5%.
In Europe, the rate fell by 61.6% to 26.3% on average —the biggest drop since World War II. The U.K. has posted the highest rate with 36.5%.
In the U.S. the pandemic has forced major hotel operators including Hyatt, Marriott International and Hilton to lay off or furlough thousands of employees as bookings plunged.
American credit rating agency Fitch Ratings says the coronavirus pandemic will cause a 60% drop this year in European hotels’ occupancy rates, which will not recover until at least 2023.
“Borders may continue to be closed in some countries, limiting international tourism. People may simply prefer not to travel overseas. Some forms of government-imposed social distancing will continue to be in place, which may lead to only selected hotel re-openings,” a spokesman for Fitch Ratings said. “Stringent compliance cost requirements could add to hoteliers’ costs. Hotels’ bars and restaurants may have to stay closed for a longer period and conditions for their re-opening may severely reduce their profitability.”
There is some better news, though. On June 2 Marriott reopened all of its hotels in China –hotel occupancy in Beijing is currently 16.4%– and the group says it has seen a recovery in business travel. Marriott also said demand for hotel rooms in the US is recovering.