Hotels in EU part of Brussels face ruin amid 'catastrophic' pandemic

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By Christopher Pitchers  & Meabh McMahon
Hotels in EU part of Brussels face ruin amid 'catastrophic' pandemic
Copyright  JOHN THYS/AFP

Hotels in the EU quarter of Brussels risk going bust this winter, a trade body has told Euronews.

After Singapore, Brussels hosts the most conferences per year.

But this year has been different. And winter is likely to prove even more difficult, with new lockdown measures and restrictions meaning physical conferences are out of the question.

Many hoteliers now fear their industry will perish.

"The economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis on the hotel sector in Brussels are catastrophic. Only 10% of hotel rooms are occupied in the capital and many hotels are closed," Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh, from the Brussels Hotels Association, told Euronews.

But to try and save the industry - which supports 12,500 jobs and boasts 15,000 hotel rooms - the Brussels regional government announced a string of measures, including handouts from €200,000 to €800,000 per hotel.

While cash injections can provide a vital lifeline to the struggling sector in the short term, in the long term the industry will have to adapt to survive, as Jeroen Roppe, from Visit Brussels explained.

"These people are experiencing extremely difficult times. It is very difficult to measure the impact of the crisis on the EU quarter in the long run. Will the 50,000 people who work for the international institutions in Brussels all come back at the same time? Maybe not.

"It is clear we will have to adapt the strategy to the outcome of the crisis with all out stakeholders, so the European institutions, the authorities in Brussels, the cultural institutions, commercial associations. That is what we are going to do."

The question now will be if virtual events will replace the constant conferences that keep the EU quarter buzzing. Stuart Alford, the head of business from Cecoforma PR, thinks conferences as we know them are history.

"I don't that think events will be the same as before. They will move to a more hybrid model I think. Events will be smaller with only key stakeholders in the room. They will be broadcast online in a hybrid way which will probably be better for transparency as that brings the physical event beyond the four walls of the conference.

"It is also a better return of investment for the money that the European Commission is spending on events, that they can reach a wider audience through the digital and physical hybrid."