Business

Northern Ireland hotel room numbers set to break 10,000 mark by end of the year

The growth in the Belfast hotel market has been fuelled by new openings such as the 300-bed Grand Central
Gareth McKeown

THE number of hotel rooms in the north has now passed the 9,000 mark, new figures show.

Over 1,000 rooms have been added to the market since January and is forecast to increase to 10,000 by the end of the year.

The expansion to date in 2018 has been fuelled by the opening of Northern Ireland’s largest hotel, the Grand Central, opening with 300 rooms in June, swiftly followed by new brand, Hampton by Hilton, adding a further 178 rooms to Belfast’s burgeoning hotel stock.

A total of five new hotels have opened in the city within the past year, including the AC Marriott and Flint Hotels and 237-bed Maldron Hotel, while expansion projects have increased capacity at a number of others. Looking ahead the new George Best Hotel is scheduled to open in November in the Scottish Mutual Building in Belfast city centre.

There are currently 142 hotels in the north, with demand for rooms up 5.9 per cent on last year. Ooccupancy rates for the year to June are on a par with 2017 according to the figures from the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF)

Chief executive of the NIHF, Janice Gault described it as an "action packed" year to date, but anticipates expansion will tail off by this time next year.

“The summer season is going well with anecdotal evidence suggesting an increase in both European and Northern American visitor numbers," she said.

"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. A number of trends are starting to emerge, but it will be several months before the market adjusts to new supply levels. Room rate has held up well and although occupancy levels have had a couple of stutters, in general the industry has coped well with an unprecedented situation.”

President of the NIHF, Gavin Carroll said they are pleased with the year so far, but noted the increasing Belfast hotel stock has presented issues.

“In the Belfast market there has been a bit of a wobble in terms of occupancy levels. There is certainly a bigger challenge for those selling rooms in the city," he said.

"On a positive note, tourist numbers are up and we are pleased with the year so far. Room rates have held up and the increase in supply should help the city attract larger conferences and events in the future."

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