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Tourism sector hopes for late summer boost after floods, bad weather

Illustration shows flooded streets in the city centre of Spa, Wednesday, 14 July 2021. (BELGA PHOTO BRUNO FAHY)
06:12 12/08/2021

The sun should finally make its return as the week comes to a close, which will be some small relief for the Belgian tourism industry that had been counting on a better summer to help boost its recovery after taking a hit during the coronavirus crisis.

"Coming out slowly from the shadow of corona, the sectors were expecting a lot from this summer, as the start of the season was looking pretty good and bookings had resumed,” said Pierre Coenegrachts, the director of Wallonia Belgium Tourism. “We therefore expected very large numbers of visitors in Belgium. Some neighbouring countries have begun to reopen the borders, notably the Dutch and Germans, who are among our biggest foreign visitors. But, indeed, the bad weather and especially the floods in some regions have adversely affected this summer period."

"The floods were obviously catastrophic for people in a private capacity but also for the tourist infrastructure, such as accommodation and campsites,” he added. “All these flooded areas will not, of course, be reopened for a long time. So, all this has upset the tourism sector’s organisation of the summer period, especially in the provinces of Liège and Luxembourg, but also in Walloon Brabant, since the Walibi fun park is closed until October, for example."

Coenegrachts believes that tourists must return to these stricken regions to help them recover. "The best way to help these people is to try to come back,” he said. “Of course, you have to do your research beforehand. As a reminder, it is necessary to reserve in advance for most if not all activities due to corona. The visitwallonia.be website provides information on this while our home page gives information on the flooded areas that are accessible again. For example, the city of Spa, which suffered a lot from the floods, is again accessible for all its services."

Predictions suggest that this summer will not be a good one for tourism in Wallonia, but there is still hope for the end of August and a repeat of the last ‘good’ summer for the industry in 2019 when popular events and sunny weather from mid-August helped to boost the balance sheet.

“This year, the public has been a little cautious and we are of course still waiting for the good weather, even if we know that in Belgium, people do not come specifically for that,” said Pierre Coenegrachts. “It helps that good weather has just been announced. We do not ask for high temperatures, but we would like dry weather for our outdoor activities. We attract a lot of hikers, the Belgians have got back on their bikes, and we have a lot of walking and cycling routes to offer. The opportunities are there for the month of August, so we hope that we can continue to welcome Belgian and foreign tourists as the summer comes to a close."

Written by Nick Amies