Hotel sector demand puts Northern Ireland on Asian investor alert says CBRE

CBRE NI managing director Brian Laverty with Alex Speers (senior surveyor CBRE NI) and Jileen Loo (head of Asia Desk at CBRE International Capital Markets)
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A SURGE of Chinese investment in Ireland is being predicted for the next decade as increasingly affluent Chinese investors acquire a taste for international property - particularly hotels.

And with tourism numbers from Asia also expected to soar, Belfast is putting the infrastructure in place to cash in on any boom, including doubling its current complement of hotel bedrooms from 3,400 to more than 7,000.

Commercial property company CBRE - which is currently tracking a total of 27 hotel schemes in various stages of the development pipeline across Belfast - confirmed it has had "live enquiries" from Asian investors looking to spend money in Northern Ireland, potentially partnering on new hotel schemes.

Last year nearly £2 billion of hotels were also sold to Asian investors in the UK and Europe, including the Temple Bar and Ormond Hotels in Dublin as well as the Malmaison group.

"Investment into the British and Irish markets is gathering momentum, and looking towards Belfast is a next logical step," said Jileen Loo, head of the Asia desk at International Capital Markets for CBRE Hotels.

The motivators for the Chinese to buy property overseas include investment, lifestyle, emigration and education, and many are looking for a foothold in the UK or Ireland, where they hope their children will go on to study.

But as well as investing, many simply want to travel too, and Miss Loo added: "The Chinese have a desire to consume and a desire to travel, and the numbers of tourists coming from China to UK is growing faster in percentage terms even than the Americans.

"They tend to stay longer (an average 14 days per trip against eight days for US visitors) and spend more (£2,000 each visit against half that by the Americans), so it's a lucrative market to tap into and requires fresh thinking," she added.

CBRE has released an interactive map, the only resource of its kind, on the current Belfast hotel developments, which include six properties on-site (such as the 304-room Grand Central, 188-room AC Hotel by Marriott in Belfast Harbour and the Titanic Hotel in the old H&W drawing room).

The company is also tracking 13 hotels where planning has already been approved (totalling 1,766 rooms), another four at the plans-submitted stage (498 rooms) and four still at pre-planning (390 rooms).

Those 27 hotels, if they all get to completion (although some won't), will add 3,745 rooms to the current city stock of 3,400 rooms - sufficient to meet the demand for growing international tourism numbers and conference delegates (the new Waterfront Hall expansion was described as a 'game-changer').

Alex Speers, senior surveyor for CBRE Northern Ireland, said the interactive map is "a unique resource for investors, developers, existing hoteliers or in general any party doing research on the hotel market in Belfast.”

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