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Brussels; Higher tourist occupation, decreasing turnover

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Belgium is ranked last in the European gross operating profit per hotel room. The Brussels Hotels Association rings the alarm bell upon its annual season’s greetings.
BRUSSELS - The Brussels Hotels Association (BHA) welcomed yesterday, at the Thon Hotel EU, the Brussels hoteliers together with many representatives from the political world and members of the Media for its traditional annual New Year cocktail. Much too high labour costs, recruitment issues, counterproductive tourist taxes: the BHA’s President’s speech, Fred De Deken, surely kept the audience listening.

"For the second consecutive year, activity holds despite the crisis. Nevertheless the future of the sector is endangered!". A shocking statement? No: a realistic one delivered by the President of the Brussels Hotels Association.

The Brussels hotel sector, which provides over 12,500 jobs - "which can't be de­localised neither automated" pointed out the President of the BHA-, links these recruitment issues to a lack of competitiveness. "We would be happy to see employees earning more BUT not costing more!". Belgium is ranked last in the European gross operating profit per hotel room (GOPPAR or Gross Operating Profit per Available Room, in the professional jargon). "The occupancy ratio is stable despite the poor economical climate. We must however point out efforts, especially these from the Region and from the City of Brussels, as well as the actions and dynamism of VISITBRUSSELS. However it is a mistake to look only at the tourist attendance figures and to ignore the profit margin levels of hotels. It is now urgent to question the economic viability of our sector...".

In 2012, tourist occupation increased by 1.2% according to the figures confirmed by VISITBRUSSELS. It is, mainly, the success of city trips that maintained the occupancy ratio. This trend, combined with a decrease in overnight rates, was not enough to stop the fall of the overall turnover of the sector (-1.3%). The BHA anticipates a similar scenario for 2013, with an occupancy ratio's increase of 1.6% but with once again a decrease of 1.2% of the global turnover. This turnover's decrease is also under pressure as a result of significant costs increases (energy 7%, m3 of water 8%, raw materials 2%, salaries 4%).

In 2012, the sector clearly endures lower profitability and even, for many, increasing losses. It is therefore essential that the Federal Government opens immediately the debate on costs and particularly these related to labour charges as, in the negative, creation and consolidation of employment in this very labour intensive sector will not continue. Forecasts for 2013 demonstrate at profusion the urgent need to handle this important issue.

"We could be in a position to recruit 350 additional people every year for these trained in the hospitality and tourism sectors. Regrettably there are only about 150 candidates a year available. With an unemployment ratio of 22% in the Brussels Region, this is absolutely unacceptable!", said  the President Fred De Deken during BHA’s season’s greetings cocktail, whilst calling also for a strengthening of educational programs and professional trainings at regional level.
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