The Dutch tourism sector seems to be doing very well in the light of the current situation. However, there are major differences between regions and not every tourism branch performs as well. In an article from AD, senior researcher Urban Economics and Real Estate at Erasmus School of Economics Jeroen van Haaren elaborates on the differences and possible causes.
According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), 5.9 million Dutch people went on to go on a holiday within their own country in 2020. In some months, the tourism branch surpasses the statistics from 2019. This image may appear too good to be reality: whilst other branches such as the restaurant industry, event industry and the aviation sector are fighting bankruptcy, the tourism sector looks unharmed at first view. And it is too good to be true: within the tourism sector, there’s a significant contrast between the hotelling sector and bungalow parks, for instance. According to Elsje van Vuuren from NBTC Holland Marketing, this difference has to do with the preferences of holidaymakers during the pandemic. ‘Clearly, people were looking for tranquillity and not willing to bivouac in the city’. People want to reside in nature. On the other hand, foreign tourists, who often stay at hotels, didn’t come to the Netherlands.
In addition to the difference between rural and urban areas, Van Haaren points at the differences between cities. ‘The Hague benefits from coastal tourism, particularly from visiting Germans. Utrecht attracts more domestic tourism, possibly because of its central location and the fact that it’s surrounded by nature. In comparison with Rotterdam, both cities are performing very well. Since Rotterdam doesn’t have these appealing characteristics, tourism is lagging’. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) backs these observations: tourism is growing in rural areas with lots of nature, a stark contrast to the 34% decline of overnight stays in Rotterdam in comparison with last year. The difference can be observed within one area as well: the city of Utrecht is facing a 11.1% decline, which is still remarkably better than the city of Rotterdam, while the province of Utrecht shows a slight growth of tourism.
Of course, we can’t ascribe the entire decline in tourism in Rotterdam to the aforementioned conditions. The appearance of Rotterdam in the media hasn’t been too positive in the last few months. Contaminations were high, Rotterdam has been one of the first cities to introduce the mandatory usage of face masks in the city-centre and much of the news regarding COVID-19 has been broadcast from Rotterdam, which leads to negative associations. Most importantly, Van Haaren emphasizes, Rotterdam is the city of congresses and events. Since the organisation and proceedings regarding events have become next to impossible, these events regrettably couldn’t take place.