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A tough year for the Netherlands

2003 was not a good year for the Netherlands` tourism

2003 was not a good year for the Netherlands` tourism. Preliminary results point to a 6 per cent decline in arrivals and a 4 per cent drop in overnight volume. But recent changes in the organisation of tourism in the country and the role and activities of the newly named Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) augur well for the future.

The stable political and economic climate of the Netherlands has been a major contributor to its appeal as a tourism destination. Yet it has a number of other attractions – from its rich cultural heritage to its windmills and tulips and, until recently at least, its liberal drugs policy. In addition, its easy accessibility – particularly through the development of Amsterdam`s Schiphol airport – has also boosted tourism demand from abroad. While the majority of Dutch people on holiday in the Netherlands stay at campsites or in bungalows, some 56% of foreign bednights were spent in hotels in 2002.

This compared with 16% in camping sites, 25% in individual holiday villas/cottages and 3% in group accommodation. Inbound tourism performanceis assessed mainly on the basis of the registration of guest arrivals and roomnights recorded by hotels and other forms of registered commercial accommodation (TCE). A substantial number of bed nights are clearly from business visitors, but it is difficult to provide a breakdown of arrivals or overnight volume by purpose of trip as surveys of inbound visitors are conducted very infrequently – the last was five years ago.

The situation may change with the merger of the Netherlands Convention Bureau (NCB) and the Netherlands Board of Tourism(NBT), but detailed statistics on Dutch domestic trips and overnights have until now been restricted to leisure tourism as domestic business tourism was not part of the NBT`s research remit.

The NBTC also says that data on expenditure/receipts is unreliable as it does not include the spending of same-day travellers, whether Dutch or foreign. Some research has been conducted on this sector (see below) but there are still reportedly problems of definition.

International tourist arrivals in all forms of commercial accommodation (TCE) totalled 9.6 million in 2002, but the NBT estimates frontier arrivals at 11.6 million. TCE arrivals were expected to fall by 6% in 2003, and overnights by more than 3%. Meanwhile, domestic travel stagnated, in terms of both trips and overnight volume.

The top two foreign markets for the Netherlands, Germany and the UK, account for some 48% of total arrivals, and the top five markets (including the USA, Belgium and France) generate close to 70% between them. More than 85% of overnights are generated by Europeans (2002 data), with the Americas accounting for an 8.2% share, Asia Pacific for 5.3% and Africa 1.4%.

The Netherlands is an important international conference destination. In 1997 -the last year for which accurate figures are available- some 686 conferences were recorded in the country generating 912,025 delegate days. Over the 1990s the number of international conferences reportedly grew by an annual average of nearly 10% and the number of delegate days by about 7% – well above the average for tourism generally.

A survey conducted by the consulting firm LA Group, meanwhile, suggests that the value of the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) business overall for the Netherlands in 2002 was more than EUR1 billion, or 11.4% or total international receipts (excluding receipts from same-day travel).

The results of research conducted over the past 12 years by the NBTC (under its different former guises) highlight the value of special events and exhibitions to the country, both in terms of visitor numbers and their contribution to economic growth. The Netherlands hosts more than 5,000 local events annually, plus 1,000 or more small regional events, 500 regional events with wider impact (eg floral processions), 10-20 big national events (eg Sail Amsterdam and pop festivals), and one major international event (eg Euro2000 or Floriade 2002).

The tourism demand generated by all these different events (excluding demand for overnight tourism from abroad) is estimated by the NBT at 1 billion day-trips and EUR26 billion in expenditure, which supports 337,000 jobs directly or indirectly in tourism.

The Netherlands does not have a fully fledged Tourism Satellite Account but estimates by the NBTC – based on data collected from all the different research institutes and industry organisations measuring tourism trends -suggest that tourism accounted for 450,000 jobs in 2002, of which 280,000 full-time jobs. Tourism`s total contribution was estimated at EUR34.1 billion, including spending in the Netherlands by Dutch tourists related to foreign travel.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.