Record-breaking start to 2018 for the north's booming hotel market

The Northern Ireland hotel market has posted record breaking sales at the start of 2018. Pictured are Caitriona Lavery and Howard Hastings of Hastings Hotels, alongside Tourism NI chief executive, John McGrillen after the opening for the new Grand Central Hotel was confirmed for next month
Gareth McKeown

THE booming Northern Ireland hotel market has posted record breaking sales at the start of 2018 and shows no signs of abating, according to the latest government figures.

New data from NISRA shows that a total of 463,500 hotel rooms were sold between January and March, a 6 per cent increase on the same period in 2017.

Room occupancy also increased by 2 per cent in the first quarter to 63 per cent, with Belfast driving the success with a rate of 72 per cent.

Across the wider accommodation sector there was a 5 per cent increase in rooms sold in the north's hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and guest accommodation in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2017, with more than 500,000 rooms sold in total.

Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said the hotel sector has enjoyed a very positive start to 2018.

"These figures demonstrate the upward trend and level of investment by the hotel and wider accommodation industry to host our continued record visitor numbers. £500 million will be invested in the accommodation sector by 2020, with more than 2,000 new rooms coming on stream by the end of the decade. With the continued growth and investment by our accommodation sector, visitor attractions and activity providers, we have a positive outlook for the rest of the year."

“These latest figures are a welcome boost and will encourage us in our efforts to develop a sustainable and internationally competitive industry over the next decade," he added.

The positive figures come as the north's largest hotel prepares to open its doors next month. Hastings Hotels has confirmed that the 304-room Grand Central Hotel will open in the week commencing June 18 and the first guests to check-in will be a group of international delegates attending the prestigious Hosts Global Forum in the city.

The global travel trade event is being held in Europe for the first time after previously being hosted in Boston, New Orleans, Miami and Mexico.

Group sales manager of Hastings Hotels, Catriona Lavery said they are delighted to confirm some of the world's major meetings and incentive travel buyers as the first guests at the Grand Central.

"The potential economic generator to Northern Ireland is massive, in fact it has already led to a number of confirmed incentive programmes, which will have further economic benefits by generating millions of pounds to the local economy."

The Grand Central Hotel is one of a number due to open in Belfast city centre this summer, including the Hampton by Hilton on Hope Street, the easyHotel on Howard Street and the George Best Hotel at the Scottish Mutual Building.

Meanwhile the new 237-bedroom Maldron Hotel Belfast City held its official opening yesterday after beginning operations in March.

The ribbon was cut on the new four-star hotel, situated on Brunswick Street, by Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister at an event attended by other local dignitaries, representatives of business, public sector and tourist organisations.

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