The United States is the top long-haul destination for Belgian travelers, accounting for nearly one fifth (19%) of the market – over 245,000 Belgians visited the U.S. in 2009. Belgium is ranked 22nd of countries that travel most to the U.S. The number of visitors in 2009 is down 7 percent from the number in 2008. This decrease is a result of the economic situation which is badly hitting tourism in general. The number of visitors in 2010 is expected to increase again however.
The U.S. remains the third most popular Belgian tourist destination, after France and Spain. Belgians generally have a high level of disposable income to spend on luxury items and leisure activities such as travel. Out of the five to six weeks of paid vacation that are standard for most Belgian workers, two of these are usually spent on long-haul travel. The average Belgian stays in the United States for 13 days and spends $2,500 (not including airfare), making Belgians some of the biggest spenders out of all the visitors to the U.S. Many Belgian travelers take a ski vacation each winter and a “sun” vacation each summer, and the U.S. tourist industry could benefit from catering to this annual cycle. Belgian tourism to the U.S. is recovering, particularly while the euro is still stronger than the U.S. dollar.
Sub-Sector Best Prospects
The United States has many industries, attractions, and unique qualities that are appealing to many Belgians. Due to the winter/summer holiday cycle of a typical Belgian, it would be most beneficial to promote season-specific destinations, such as the popular ski resorts in Colorado and New York, or any of the numerous East and West coast beaches.
Since Belgians take most of their leave during the summer months, and the Belgian climate is cold and rainy during large parts of the year, beaches and sunny destinations are very attractive to Belgian tourists. The United States could take advantage of this trend by placing a promotional emphasis on the Hawaiian Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Florida keys. In addition, many Belgian travelers are unfamiliar with the extensive amount of nice beaches the U.S. has to offer outside of Florida and California. Destinations like Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, the Outer Banks, and Cape Cod would likely attract additional Belgian vacationers, if they were publicized more.
It would also be beneficial to promote shopping trips. The demands for these trips are increasing dramatically due to the strength of the euro. A significant benefit to this type of trip is that it can be promoted all year round, since it is not dependent upon a specific season.
Other non-traditional vacations are increasing in popularity among the Belgians. Cross-country vacations were up by 9% and event holidays were up by 14%. Belgians visiting the U.S. (particularly those who are coming for their second or third visit) are looking for unique vacation spots beyond the typical tourist destinations like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. They also tend to be very active and enjoy taking excursions that involve a combination of sports and nature. Since Belgium is a small, densely populated country, the open space and diverse landscapes that the United States has to offer are very attractive to Belgian tourists. The number and variety of national parks and their surrounding areas, particularly those in the western U.S., provide a perfect mixture of nature and sporting activities. Promoting U.S. ski resorts may therefore be beneficial, as European resorts are becoming increasingly expensive and are often crowded.
Read the complete commercial guide to Doing Business in Belgium