Service exports down more sharply than goods exports

© Hollandse Hoogte / Robin Utrecht
In 2020, the Netherlands exported 223 billion euros in services, including advertising services and streaming of series and music. This represents a year-on-year decline of 10 percent. At the same time, Dutch goods exports fell by 6 percent to 483 billion euros. The import of both services and goods shrank as well, by 12 and 8 percent respectively. Dutch service trade declined more strongly than goods trade last year. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of provisional figures on international service trade.

Service trade was hit hardest in Q4, with a 14-percent drop in exports and a 17-percent drop in imports. Whereas goods exports and imports saw a partial recovery in Q3 and Q4 following the largest year-on-year decline in Q2, service trade slumped further in the second half of the year. From Q3 onwards, the contraction in service trade was more substantial than in goods trade.

Value of international trade in services and goods, 2020
StroomTypeServices (year-on-year % change)Goods (year-on-year % change)

Export contraction mainly in tourism

In 2020, Dutch service exports shrank by 24 billion euros. This can be explained by the coronavirus pandemic on the one hand while on the other hand several companies shifted their flows of services across the border.

Last year’s decline in service exports is largely related to the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 measures; travel showed the largest contraction. Foreign holidaymakers, day trippers and business travellers came to the Netherlands in smaller numbers; total visitor expenditure was approximately 51 percent lower year-on-year. Various platforms and intermediaries earn from travel as well. Other services are therefore also affected by the decline in travel, e.g. business services and transport services. Exports of business services declined by nearly 14 percent; this includes travel mediation services and R&D. The decline in transport services amounted to 11 percent, largely due to the contraction in air passenger transport.

Exports of intellectual property rights use grew from 62 to 65 billion euros in 2020, making it the only type of service export in the top five that recorded growth. The increase is mainly attributable to companies engaged in the distribution of audiovisual products such as streaming services of music, films and series.

Service exports by type of service
Dienstensoort2020 (bn euros)2019 (bn euros)
Intellectual property rights6562
Business services6272
Transport services3842
Telecommunications, computer services2426
Other services2527

Largest decline in travel

Within international service trade, travel is one of the main five contributors to exports. Last year, visitor spending decreased for the first time since 2014. Foreign tourists spent altogether almost 9 billion euros less in the Netherlands than in 2019. The bulk of this expenditure was by tourists from neighbouring countries. Spending by travellers from Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom declined by more than 5.4 billion euros in 2020. German travellers spent 44 percent less in the Netherlands compared to 2019. Travellers from Belgium and the UK spent 51 and 71 percent less respectively.

Foreign visitor expenditure by country of origin
Landen2019 (bn euros)2020 (bn euros)
Other countries5.1612.564