NI hospitality in good shape to prosper in 2022, says expert
Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry can continue to prosper in 2022, be it with a return of foreign visitors in big numbers or again tapping into the staycation market, a hotel analytics expert has said.
Sarah Duignan, who will speak at the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation’s in-person Hospitality Exchange 2021, told Delicious: “Covid has kind of allowed Northern Ireland to stand out on its own to some extent.
“How Northern Ireland decided to deal with weddings was quite interesting with the whole risk assessment as opposed to a maximum number and the fact Northern Ireland opened up hospitality before the south of course generated demand.
“Sitting outside under an umbrella in Dublin is not very attractive when you can sit inside in a nice bar or restaurant in Belfast and that certainty helped drive demand.
“There’s a big weekend market in Belfast too. Pre-Covid I would have spent two, maybe three weekends every year in Belfast and only one of those would have been driven by a tag-on from corporate travel, so there’s a big attraction.
‘A huge driver for the market’
“Look at the events and concerts too. Belfast has become a real hub for pretty big names coming into the marketplace that would only have been in Dublin in years gone by, so that’s a huge driver for the NI market.
“If you look at Belfast, in July 2019 it sold 79% of all rooms, which was pre-Covid. In 2018 that sat at 77%, and in 2017 that was at 86% so Belfast has always performed very well and Northern Ireland as whole has performed well particularly in the summer months.”
STR’s Director of Client Relationships, who started her own love affair with hospitality behind the reception desk in the Landmark Hotel in Carrick On Shannon, also predicted that the 2025 Open in Portrush could outstrip the estimated £106m economic lift from the 2019 event.
“In terms of the golf, money can’t buy that kind of marketing when it comes to saying you are going to have The Open again in 2025.
“There were 238,000 attended in 2019– over three times the size of Croke Park transplanted into one small town. All of Northern Ireland benefitted from that.”
“Over the four days occupancies were sitting in the mid and late 90s but the market kind of averaged out where it did in 2018 so there wasn’t a big lift in occupancy because there has been a huge lift in supply over the last 10 to 15 years across NI but especially in Belfast. The fact you can maintain that occupancy despite the fact there is so much more supply is no mean feat.
“Where the big change is that we see is in the average rate. Average rate for that month of July 2019 was just over 24% more than in 2018. Golf was only four days of that so that was a massive driver.
“2025 is three years away but people that follow golf around the world, be they American, Chinese or Japanese or more local will be planning for that. It’s the trip of a lifetime.
“I know people from the Middle East who are coming and there is definitely the opportunity to tag on some golf tourism. Maybe even some of the clubs can package two, three or four courses together, I’m sure it happens in golf magazines, and spread them out over 10 days or even 14 with the aim of keeping people in the country for as long as possible.”
Hospitality Exchange runs from October 12-13 at Belfast’s Crowne Plaza and features a host of industry movers and shakers. to find out more and reserve your place visit hospitalityexchange.org.uk.
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