At Hospitality Exchange 2019, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) published a report which shows that over £1billion has been invested in the Northern Ireland hotel market over the last two decades. Four-star accommodation now dominates the sector which comprises 145 hotels with a bedroom stock of 9,548 rooms.
The report, which is supported by information from ASM and STR, reflects on changes within the sector and the effects of recent expansion, while providing market forecast information up to 2020.
Discussing some of the key headlines NIHF CEO Janice Gault said: “The hotel landscape has altered dramatically and it’s only when you look back to 1999 that you realise the seismic changes that have occurred. Hotels have invested heavily with new builds, extensions and refurbishments. As a result, the entire market has moved up the grading scale with a total investment in the region of £1bn. The four-star market has really grown, and budget hotels are now just 16% of the overall room stock. The one and two star sector is more or less defunct.
“Hotels have become much larger with the average hotel now comprising of 66 rooms. In 1999 the average was only 36 rooms. There is a greater concentration of hotels in urban areas, with a greater number of brands operating in the local market. New types of accommodation have become available with online platforms strengthening their hold over the market.
“After a period of considerable expansion, the sector now comprises of 145 hotels with a bedroom stock of 9,548 rooms. There have been some pressures in the market but it is important to note that in Belfast, where most of the expansion has occurred, demand year to date (YTD) is running at plus 8.3%. Overall room sales are up year on year with forecasts indicating that 2.5m hotel rooms will be sold in Northern Ireland in 2019. Forecasts created at the end of 2018 were revised upwards after a strong summer and suggest an occupancy in 2019 of 72% with a room rate in the region of £80.”
Janice continues: “However, the cloud of Brexit looms over the UK with the Northern Ireland economy in a vulnerable position. Uncertainty is the real enemy here. People are holding back on bookings. The ROI market which has grown considerably over the last number of years is of particular concern. Any physical barrier or perceived impediment to movement of visitors across the island is not good news for tourism.
“As 2019 comes to a close the hotel sector is in a good place in terms of investment and stock. The industry is a resilient one and has become adept at coping with change. Hotels are resilient by their very nature and continue to show real commitment to the Northern Ireland economy.”