brussels, metro explosion.jpg
Photograph: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

Tourist services in the Belgian city of Bruges - one of the country's visitor hotspots - have seen a decline in numbers during the first half of 2016, following terrorist attacks in Brussels in March, the Belga news agency reported Friday.

On March 22, three attackers blew themselves up at Brussels' international airport and an underground station in the Belgian capital, killing 32 civilians.

Bruges' canal boat operators sold 400,280 tickets in the first six months of the year - more than 22 per cent down on the same time last year - while 25 per cent fewer people took horse-drawn carts than in the first half of 2015, Belga wrote.

The figures are considered to be a reliable indicator of the health of the tourism sector in Bruges, a city often described as the Venice of the North for its many canals.

"Given that many tourists take a boat tour, we know that in the case of a reduction in the numbers of people transported, the business figures for hotels, restaurants, cafes and shops will suffer," said Hilde Decleer, the official responsible for the local economy.

The city of Bruges has put the drop in numbers down to the Brussels attacks and a heightened level of terrorist threat across the country.

Meanwhile, Belgian authorities announced Friday that they had so far paid out 674,500 euros (763,400 dollars) in urgent aid to victims of the March 22 attacks, Belga wrote.

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