The Brussels hotel sector, between historical foundations and current transitions.
In Brussels, which is comparatively less prone to 'overtourism' than cities such as Paris, Amsterdam or Barcelona, a reflection on the undesirable effects of tourist attraction is underway. One of the objectives of the PPAS Unesco is to reduce the mono-functionality of the area. The PPAS should also prevent a further increase in tourist accommodation in the historic centre. On the other hand, some people are questioning the granting of planning permission for new hotel projects, as well as the urban marketing policy pursued by the City of Brussels, which would contribute to the development of a leisure and tourism-oriented city project around the pedestrian zone. But what is the reality? Following a detailed analysis, IDEA has highlighted the underlying trends in the recent development of tourist accommodation in Brussels:
- The tendency for the hotel sector to cluster around the commercial and entertainment hubs in the city centre, with the main hotel hubs remaining the same for over a century.
- The existence of other location factors determining the distribution of the hotel offer, beyond the tendency of tourist and leisure hotels to locate in central tourist districts: accessibility by public transport, land prices and opportunities, and urban planning constraints.
- The predominance of Brussels in Belgian tourism, with the number of nights spent in hotels in 2022 approaching pre-covid figures. The marked decline in business travel, which is essential to the use of Brussels hotels, will be partially offset by the growth in overnight stays for leisure purposes.
- A traditionally less-developed hotel infrastructure, in line with Brussels' modest tourist appeal at European level: 1.19 hotel rooms per 100 inhabitants in 2021, a rate comparable to that of Antwerp and Ghent, but much lower than in tourist cities such as Maastricht or Bruges and far behind that of Amsterdam, for example.
- Airbnb-type tourist accommodation has complemented the hotel sector over the last ten years, as in other destination cities. Nights spent in accommodation booked on online platforms will account for 21.1% of overnight stays by tourists in 2022, a percentage that has fallen sharply since 2019, after years of strong growth.
- An improvement in the occupancy rate of Brussels hotels in the pre-covid period, in line with growing demand and the status quo for more than 10 years of the hotel infrastructure in quantitative terms, despite the development of the supply of tourist accommodation, estimated at 4,800 in 2022, down since 2019.
In order to better understand the evolution of the sector and guide policies, it is also necessary to understand the role of hotels in the city. On the basis of the literature, IDEA has proposed 4 approaches:
- The hotel as a symbol of modernity
- The hotel as an urban amenity
- The hotel as an element of urban transformation
- Segmentation and constant renewal of the hotel offer
- Cities and provinces