In recent years inbound tourism numbers have grown, despite a decrease in 2016. This is confirmed by the number of inbound overnight visitors in Belgium between 2010 and 2016. The Flanders region had the highest number of international overnight visitor arrivals in 2016 with 2.7 million tourists, whereas the Brussels Capital region counted roughly 2.1 million visitors. Regarding the country of origin of inbound overnight visitors, most tourists came from the Netherlands with 965,600 visitors, while approximately 885,000 tourists came from France and 700,000 from the United Kingdom.
A different pattern can be seen with outbound tourism, where a constant growth in vacations abroad was detected. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of holidays abroad grew from 9.5 to 13.1 million. In 2017, the total number of outbound holidays grew to 13.5 million, of which 9.4 were long-haul and 4.1 short-haul holidays. France was the most popular holiday destination for Belgian tourists, while Spain and the Netherlands received roughly 1.67 and 1.6 million Belgian holiday makers respectively. Figures on outbound travel expenditure, show that approximately 17.7 billion euros was spent on international travel, which is a decrease compared to the previous year.
The domestic travel market saw tourism expenditure increase over recent years as well. If in 2012 spending amounted to 7.7 billion euros, in 2017 it rose to 8.1 billion euros, and it is forecasted that this will increase to 9.6 billion euros in 2028. When holidays are taken domestically, hotels were the most frequently chosen accommodation in 2016. Approximately 7.3 million domestic overnight stays in hotels were registered in Belgium, whereas 4.74 million overnight stays were recorded in holiday cottages.
The growth in holidays has a positive effect on the Belgian economy, with a ten and 11 billion euros direct and indirect tourism contribution to the GDP in 2017. A relatively large share of the GDP contribution comes from inbound tourism with almost 60 percent. Of the direct GDP contribution 73.7 percent accounted for leisure, whereas 26.3 percent related to business purposes.
Based on research reports, 2016 saw a small decrease of inbound tourists, but outbound and domestic tourist numbers grew. Recent developments such as the rise of budget airlines and cheaper accommodation contributes to growing tourism figures. Furthermore, based on the total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP, it is expected that the tourism industry in Belgium will continue to grow.