“Last year 70 percent of rooms were taken. Today the figure for October is 10%” says Dimitri Thirion of the Bruges Hoteliers Federation. For November only 6% of rooms are booked so far.
Mr Thirion isn’t optimistic: “People aren’t very enthusiastic about coming to visit our cities. At the minute we’re no longer talking about “not making a profit”. It’s about pure survival.”
Bruges has been making a tremendous effort to attract visitors. The city offered welcome packages that includes free city tours and museum tickets for people booking two nights, but the packages are not a success.
“We handed out 209 welcome packages in all. The intention was to offer 500 a week” says tourism alderman Philip Pierins. “Infection rates are rising across Belgium. Like most cities Bruges too is colouring red on the map. These are all factors that put people off coming to Bruges. The city authorities can’t do much about that.”
Dimitri Thirion of the Bruges hoteliers federation says the city authorities are providing great support, but because of the ‘stay away’ hoteliers have little revenue: “At my hotel, my wife and I are doing everything ourselves except for cleaning the rooms just to cut costs. We’re present up to 17 hours a day. We can’t pay any staff at the minute.”
Many are the Bruges hotels that have shut for the time being because they’re loss-making. Some hotels are only opening at the weekends, when there are bookings.