- Daily & Weekly newsletters
- Buy & download The Bulletin
- Comment on our articles
Who comes to Belgium for their summer holiday? Here are some answers
Not everyone deserts Belgium at this time of year - in fact millions of people choose the country as their summer holiday destination. Who are they and what brings them here?
"The biggest number of tourists in Belgium are Belgians themselves," Pierre Coenegrachts, deputy director-general of Wallonia-Brussels Tourism told La Première. "We are learning to rediscover our own country."
He pointed to a rise in domestic tourism since about 2014 due to the economic crisis and international security concerns in previously popular holiday destinations such as Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.
Belgians like to cool off at the coast or by a lake or river in the Ardennes. Full-board hotels are going out of fashion while rental cottages and bed-and-breakfasts are seeing growth.
After the Belgians come tourists from neighbouring countries. Dutch visitors accounted for 1.6 million hotel nights last year - and many Dutch tourists have second homes in the Ardennes, Coenegrachts said, adding that the Dutch come to rural Belgium for a change of scenery and pace.
The French are attracted to cultural events - and Mons in particular is still enjoying the legacy of hosting 2015 European Capital of Culture. "They don't come to Belgium for long stays necessarily," he said. "They're here for short stays, often a weekend, or for sporting, cultural or folkloric events."
A European tour
Outside of Europe, the biggest market for tourism to Belgium is in Asia - particularly Japan and China.
"The Chinese today are a bit like the Americans 40 years ago," Coenegrachts said. "They go on big tours of Europe. What we try to do is make sure Belgium is the first and last European country they set foot in.
"That means we're guaranteed at least two or three overnight stays. It's important to put our little Belgium on the map."
While summer is an important season for Belgian tourism, it is not the be-all and end-all. "Tourists are increasingly spreading out their holidays," Coenegrachts added. "They're going away more often, but for not so long, so autumn and spring are just as important for us."