The figures come from the Flemish tourist agency Toerisme Vlaanderen. Among the other half of Belgians, one third insists they will make a trip by the end of the year, while two-thirds are still hesitating. Prospects for next year look little more hopeful. 44% of those polled are confident they will travel, while 50% believe they may travel. 60% think coronavirus will have an impact on travel plans next year and indicate that they will book trips far later than usual.
Travel organisations say that bookings have fallen back to around 10% of the usual number. Maaike Andries of Brussels Airlines says people are eager to get away for half-term, but are deciding at the last minute whether and when they will do so.
“Bookings are being made but due to the uncertainty people are booking ‘very last minute’. It ranges from a couple of days beforehand to two weeks at the most.”
40% of the people with plans for an autumn trip see this as a compensation for foreign travel that was cancelled this spring or summer. More and more people are now eying destinations at home. The number of overnight stays in Flemish hotels, B&Bs or holiday accommodation booked by the people of Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia in September is up 69% in comparison with the same month last year.
Destinations at home also proved more popular last summer. Figures for overnight stays in Belgium in July and August were up 37% and 27% in comparison with last year.
Flemish tourism minister Zuhal Demir noted that people holidaying now are looking for small-scale hotels and B&Bs and are avoiding mass tourist destinations: “With the exception of the coast, it’s above all green and calm destinations that are doing well. People really want to travel in safety.”
The number of overnight stays by foreign tourists has slumped. In September the figure was down 72% in comparison with only a year ago.
Ms Demir notes that as a result of travel restrictions foreign tourists are staying away en masse: “It doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better any time soon given the latest corona figures.”
“Toerisme Vlaanderen continues to monitor the situation and is preparing to put Flanders back on the map once we have a grip on coronavirus.”