As the year comes to a close, it is the perfect opportunity to look back at the year behind us and consider the year ahead. It gives us the chance to learn lessons and look at how those can be applied to the next twelve months.
2023 was a year where there is no denying that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still very much impacting our business. Where 2022 brought a boom – with moves delayed by the pandemic finally being completed – business this year has been significantly slower.
To a great extent, this may be down to the lack of a normal pipeline of migrations. The complete shutdown of planning during 2020 and 2021, economic impact and changes to personal and business priorities have all had a part to play in this. Companies have been focusing on getting back to work and are only now beginning to consider their international hiring processes again.
We have also seen new challenges within the practicalities of relocating employees. The Belgian housing market has been experiencing an unprecedented shortage of affordable and/or city centre accommodation. This trend, however, is not unique to Belgium: the lack of affordable properties is a global one, as highlighted during EuRA’s 2023 Global Mobility Conference in Dublin.
This means that finding a home for expats is a longer process than it was even a year ago. Then, when an apartment or house is found, prices are higher and landlords are more selective, often choosing locals over expats.
These changes are seeing expats choosing accommodation away from the usual expat-friendly cities and towns. Instead, many choose to commute to the suburbs and beyond, prioritising rental prices and a broader choice of home.
We’re also seeing a change to the way companies are bringing in international talent. Many simply leave the process of finding accommodation and settling into Belgium to the assignee, rather than employing a relocation agent. Though, as the NetExpat and EY survey recently showed, this will need to change if employers want to meet the expectations of the new generation of expats and their families. A trend we welcome in 2024.
ABRA is very much aware of the evolution in the industry and will be looking at ways in which we can support our members in the coming year. We will continue with our industry updates, thank you all for your positive response to the ones we’ve released so far. The board is considering methods to actively support member outreach and sales activities. Look out for more information on these initiatives in the coming months.
As always, we will have our quarterly meetings, currently scheduled for March, May, September and December. These will include guest speakers, so please look forward to updates on these events on LinkedIn, our website and on your email.
In 2024, we will be focusing more on the impact of ABRA as an organisation. In line with EuRA guidelines, we will begin the consultation process of implementing an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programme. When complete, we will be using our experiences to create resources for members who wish to implement an ESG programme of their own. If you would like to be involved in the ABRA ESG programme, then please contact us.
Finally, I would like to thank Anita Meyer for her hard work as she stands down from the board of ABRA. Anita was a founding member of ABRA and has been a dedicated advocate for the relocation industry in Belgium. Without her, ABRA would not be the success that it is today. Her input and advice will be sorely missed by us all.
And of course, I wish you and your families an enjoyable and relaxing end of 2023. Whichever holidays, if any, you celebrate, I hope you have fun and look forward to seeing you all in 2024.