The Belgian still gave two years ago average 967 euros off to the holidays. “It is clear that there is no skimping on the holidays. This is a necessary good for some,” says VVR CEO Koen van den Bosch. Part of the budget increase has to do with more expensive hotels and the like, but “the amount that is spent more is greater than just a price indexation,” it says. Travelers therefore also make other choices, such as more long-distance travel, a higher hotel class or even more experience during the trip.
Choosing more expensive airline tickets is also such a choice. The newspaper De Tijd wrote on its website on Friday that the airline Brussels Airlines will introduce business class on all its flights from the summer season, including to classic holiday destinations within Europe. She does this because tourists are increasingly flying in business class because of the convenience: access to the lounge, being the first to board, priority for luggage upon arrival…
Started stronger than ever
According to VVR, last year was already a very good year for travel, almost at the level of before the corona crisis. “We should not forget that at the beginning of 2023 there were still restrictive measures in certain countries and regions, which meant that the holiday experience could not be guaranteed,” says Van den Bosch. “Reservations for 2024 have started stronger than ever, which makes it clear that the desire to travel is enormous this year.”
It is striking that bookings are being made earlier and earlier. During the corona crisis, people waited a very long time to book, because they wanted certainty about their trip and what would be possible at their destination, but early booking is back. “The trend is getting stronger,” says Van den Bosch. For example, there was already a first peak in bookings for 2024 in November. At the end of January, 36 percent of trips were already complete, compared to 32 percent a year ago.
The (night) train
Most travelers stay within Europe and travel by private transport or coach. Then comes the plane. But traveling by train is gaining in popularity. “The increase in frequencies, the reintroduction of night trains and a European network that is better connected are paying off and clearly respond to growing demand,” VVR said.
The Association of Belgian Tour Operators (ABTO) also sees an increasing success of the train. According to her, the share of train travel has increased to 7 percent. “An important side note, however, is that the intention to travel more ecologically is not always directly reflected in travel behavior,” ABTO stated at the start of the Holiday Fair. “Possibly because the train is still considered expensive by consumers.”
About a third of all trips are booked through a travel agency or tour operator, the VVR adds.
The Holiday Fair will take place until Sunday in palaces 5 and 6 of Brussels Expo. The host country of the fair is Morocco.
Travel agencies have completely digested the corona crisis
After several difficult corona years, travel agencies in Belgium are back on track. More than nine in ten are financially healthy again, according to an analysis commissioned by the Association of Flemish Travel Agencies (VVR) following the Holiday Fair in Brussels.
Also striking: more than half of travel agencies are now financially strong enough to withstand a new crisis, according to the financial review of the sector in Belgium by trade information office Graydon. “Our sector is doing better than many other sectors in our country,” says VVR CEO Koen van den Bosch. “We owe this to the Belgians who are once again booking their holidays en masse and clearly not skimping on their holiday budget.”
Wanderlust is indeed the driving force behind the financial recovery, says Van den Bosch. During the corona crisis, much less travel was possible and travel agencies had to use their reserves, but in 2023 travel was almost back to pre-corona levels. “Selling more trips also means more income,” says the VVR CEO. And 2024 is shaping up to be even better.
According to Van den Bosch, it is not the case that travel agencies take a larger profit margin on the trips they sell. “The profit margin has not changed. That is almost impossible, with the great competition from online players.”