In Belgium, tourism is under the respective authority of three regions: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels. This section provides a national overview of the impact of tourism in the country, followed by detail of the respective governance and policy initiatives of the Flanders and Wallonia regions.

Tourism remains a strong contributor to Belgium’s economy. The most recent Tourism Satellite Account shows that in 2016 tourism’s direct contribution to GVA was 4.3% in Flanders, 5.3% in the Brussels Capital region, and 4.1% in Wallonia.

Belgium’s tourism sector was hit hard by the pandemic. International tourists at hotels and similar establishments fell 73%, to 1.8 million. A small recovery in 2021 saw international tourists return to 2.3 million (up 28% from 2020).

Domestic tourism has grown in important in Belgium. Before the COVID 19 pandemic, the domestic market made up 42% of all tourists in hotels, which increased to 63% in 2021.

Overall, there were 11.0 million domestic and international arrivals in all types commercial accommodation (including camping grounds) in Belgium during 2021. Of these 6.8 million visited Flanders, 1.3 million visited Brussels, and 2.8 million visited Wallonia. The top market sources were France, the Netherlands and Germany, with a total market share of 71% in 2021, up from 51% from 2019. A recovery in international tourism is expected in 2025.

In Flanders, tourism is the responsibility of the Flemish Minister for Justice and Enforcement, Environment and Spatial Development, Energy and Tourism. The Tourism Unit of the Flanders Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs is responsible for international tourism policy and relations.

The overall public sector budget allocated to tourism has remained the same, with the exception of the extra support given to the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, EUR 28.5 million was allocated to the social tourism sector, with an additional EUR 40 million for subsidies to the whole tourism sector. Besides this budget, the tourism sector also benefits from more general support for enterprises, such as financial support, temporary unemployment support and loans.

Flanders has defined a regional recovery plan, “Flemish Resilience” (Vlaamse Veerkracht), for the period of 2022-26. This plan aims to help all economic sectors, including tourism, to ‘stand up’ from the crisis, with a total budget of approximately EUR 4.3 billion. Within this plan, EUR 150 million has been reserved for tourism. These investments will mainly focus on larger-scale infrastructure and supra-local visitor experiences to support:

  • The meetings, conferences and events sector with investment in multiple state-of-the-art MICE infrastructure projects. This investment will help increase the sector’s competitiveness and aid the transition to digital and hybrid events.

  • Landmark tourism projects, which will be targeted on themes that the Flemish Minister for Tourism has set out and will be financed through a mix of direct financing and theme-based open project subsidy calls. The theme focus is on heritage, cycling, culinary, nature and social tourism.

In 2021, Flanders implemented a programme to help individual tourism entrepreneurs make strategic investments, with 100% pre-financing given for investments in sustainability, health, digitalisation and professionalisation, to be partially repaid after five years. This reimbursement period was chosen to coincide with the expected recovery of international tourism. The Flemish Government allocated a budget of EUR 30 million for this programme, supplemented by additional funds from provincial and local authorities.

The longer-term strategy for tourism in Flanders is based upon the principles of “Travel to Tomorrow” (see box below). Travel to Tomorrow is a value-driven vision built on balance and sustainable tourism principles, but also considers quality, creativity and co-operation. This vision has been created in conjunction with the private sector, and aims to achieve flourishing communities and vibrant destinations.

In Wallonia, tourism is the responsibility of the Minister for Public Service, Tourism, Heritage and Road Safety. The German-speaking community in Wallonia has made an agreement with Wallonia to manage tourism in its territory.

Two main bodies support the Wallonia tourism sector:

  • The General Tourism Commission (CGT) is the main tourism administration in Wallonia and focuses on developing quality tourism. It provides support to the sector through advice, recognition, labelling and financial aid.

  • Wallonia Belgium Tourism (WBT) is responsible for promoting Walloon tourism in Belgium and foreign markets.

The 2020 Walloon budget allocated to tourism was EUR 67 million, of which EUR 11.4 million was for measures to support tourism operators due to the COVID-19 crisis. The 2021 Walloon tourism budget was EUR 54 million, of which EUR 10 million supported tourism operators affected by the pandemic. A variety of European funds have additionally been used for dedicated tourism projects.

The COVID-19 crisis confirmed, and at times accentuated, a series of emerging trends for tourism in Wallonia. These included: a shift towards local and domestic tourism; an increase in nature-based tourism, including outdoor activities like walking and cycling; a greater awareness of local culture; and a greater focus on sustainability, digitalisation and well-being. A continuation of macro-trends will also impact tourism, such as an ageing population and urbanisation. This has created a shift in the needs of the tourism sector moving forward.

In the short term, the Walloon tourism sector benefitted from economy-wide and tourism-targeted initiatives by the Walloon Government. Targeted support plans, valued at EUR 24.4 million, were primarily established under the “Get up Wallonia” plan. This Walloon recovery plan will receive both Walloon and European funding. The plan includes the development of a COVID-19 recovery plan and action plan with innovative actions for tourism focused on:

  • Stepping up the digitalisation of the sector.

  • Developing the image of “Destination Wallonia” using tourism as a vector.

  • Developing sustainable infrastructure dedicated to cycle tourists.

  • Redeveloping the major Eau d'Heure lake complex.

  • Developing river tourism.

  • Creating national parks to highlight Wallonia’s natural assets.

Focusing on the medium and long-term needs of the sector, the Walloon Minister of Tourism asked for an examination of the digital strategy and the creation of a new tourism strategy in 2021. The new Tourism Strategy 2030 has objectives to:

  • Increase the economic benefits of the sector by increasing average spend.

  • Develop a strategic positioning relating to two themes that characterise Walloon tourism: Nature and Escape; and Culture, Heritage and Agritourism.

  • Increase the development of skills and the attractiveness of the sector.

  • Attract more Belgian, French, Dutch and German tourists and business tourism.

  • Implement innovative tools to develop an understanding of the expectations and needs of visitors.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at