‘Action packed’ six months delivers 1000 new bedrooms
The burgeoning hotel sector in Northern Ireland saw yet another first this summer when the provision of new bedrooms here broke the 9000 barrier for the first time.
The latest openings have included Northern Ireland’s largest hotel, The Grand Central in Belfast, which opened with 300 bedrooms in June, and a new brand for NI, Hampton by Hilton, opened by Andras Hotels at Hope Street in the city and offering 178 rooms.
As the new rooms have come online, however, occupancy rates in the city have fallen. During June, they were down by four per cent, although room rates have held.
Belfast, where most of NI’s hotel expansion is centred, has now seen five new hotels opened in less than a year, with a series of further expansion projects set to increase the room tally in the very near future. At present, there are 142 hotels trading in Northern Ireland and more than 1000 new rooms have become available in the last seven months alone.
The frenetic level of activity currently characterising the sector is likely to tail off in the course of the next year, but Janice Gault of the NI Hotels Federation, says that the first six months of 2018 have been “action packed”:
“The summer season is going well with anecdotal evidence suggesting an increase in both European and Northern American visitor numbers,” she told LCN. “Hotel properties in Northern Ireland have also seen considerable investment over the last number of years and this is being reflected in a better room rate in all areas.”
Janice also indicated that while it will be several months before the market adjusts completely to the new supply levels, room rates have held up well despite “a few stutters” in occupancy levels.
“In general, the industry has coped well with an unprecedented situation,” she added.
Federation president, Gavin Carroll, agrees that there has been “a bit of a wobble” in occupancy levels recently and that the increase in the provision of rooms does bring a greater challenge to those with rooms to sell, but he added:
“Room rates have held up and the increase in supply should help the city attract larger conferences and events in the future.”