Facts & figures

This is an article from the magazine ‘Travel to Tomorrow‘.

Tourism is growth and economy

In 2017, 1.3 billion international arrivals were counted worldwide. By 2030, the UNWTO forecasts that this volume will grow to 1.8 billion international arrivals. Add domestic tourism and daily excursions to that figure, and the overall total is far higher than that. In Flanders, we had 7 million international arrivals in 2017. If we maintain just a modest annual growth of 2.4%, this number will increase to 10 million international arrivals by 2030. This excludes domestic tourists and daily excursions.

With everything that tourists buy and consume, their contribution to the Flemish economy equates to 2.5%. Visitors to Flanders travelling for leisure spend an average (per person, per night) of: 150 Euro in the art cities, 89 Euro in the Flemish regions and 67 Euro at the coast.

Tourism in Flanders provides over 250,000 jobs within the broad tourism sector! Residents also believe that tourism strengthens the local economy; 8 in 10 residents in the Flemish art cities (Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven, Mechelen) agree with this statement.


Tourism adds more than just money to the equation

Over three-quarters of residents in the Flemish art cities believe that tourism in their city helps to maintain cultural identity and restore historical buildings. Half of them also say that there are more recreational opportunities for residents as a result of tourism.

Over 3 in 4 inhabitants in the Flemish art cities are proud residents thanks to tourism. And proud residents are more likely to support tourism.

Travelling leads to broadening a person’s world-view, increasing selfconfidence, better awareness of people and places and so on.


But sometimes it can be too much of a good thing

If residents in our art cities experience nuisance by tourism, it’s primarily due to ‘too many people or much crowding’ and, as a result, ‘dangerous traffic situations’ in the city centre. There are few complaints about rubbish or noise. In the bigger cities there is an increased attention among residents for the quality of life due to the pressure of tourism.

Visitors who come to Flanders also have an opinion on the possible crowding that they encounter. 3 in 10 leisure, overnighting tourists in our art cities found certain spots too busy during their visit.

All in all, tourism created 8% of the global CO2-emissions in 2013.



Hold tight; international tourism is set to increase to around 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030. This is the result of the fact that growing numbers of people throughout the world will have the disposable income and time to travel. This growth will primarily originate from socalled emerging markets such as China and India.

Visitor flows are often unevenly distributed. Some destinations find it hard to appeal to visitors while others struggle with overtourism. How do we tackle these (future) challenges? Is this growth a threat to our destination or are there also opportunities? Some tourism experts (participants in the two-day writing workshop) shed some light on the issues. They all agree: by choosing the concept of a flourishing destination, making deliberate choices with respect to infrastructure, offering tourism that sits well with our unique sense of place (the DNA of a destination) and with targeted promotion, we can affect the type and number of visitors to our destination.

Mass tourism is a complex interaction of infrastructure, pricing and offering. Huge flows of tourists do not just appear overnight. Overtourism is often a consequence of the interaction between the local bodies that facilitate specific investments to attract more visitors or a private sector that depends on expanding volume in order to survive and thrive.
If the capacity of the infrastructure (cruise terminals, hotels, airports,…) exceeds the ability of the local destinations to cope, we are creating our own problems for the future. We must therefore enter into discussions with local bodies and infrastructure managers to avoid creating flows that are detrimental to residents, spoil our visitors’ experience, and degrade the natural and cultural environment.


  • General directorate of statistics and processing VISITFLANDERS
  • Research about the leisure travel market in Flanders – VISITFLANDERS, art cities, PTO’s, Westtoer
  • Rsz-Rsvz
  • Listening exercise ‘Power of Travelling’ – VISITFLANDERS
  • Residents study – VISITFLANDERS and Flemish art cities
  • Art cities study 2017/2018 – VISITFLANDERS and Flemish art cities
  • phys.org