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Hotel visitors from the south to Northern Ireland slashed by half in 2014

By Margaret Canning

Visitors from the Republic to hotels in Northern Ireland halved during 2014, a survey has said. Cross-border guests accounted for just 10% of hotel occupants in 2014, down from nearly 21% in 2013, according to ASM Accountants.

And hotels here in general were under pressure because of the weak euro and having to compete with low VAT in the Republic.

Hotels in Londonderry had actually seen a slump in occupancy rates in 2014 compared to 2013, ASM said.

The average room rate across the province was £70.78, up around £2 on the year before. Out-of-state visitors took up the majority of rooms at 70%, which was around the same as the year before - and hotel visitors from Britain grew to 37% from 30%.

Hotels' food and drink sales had also fallen in 2014 - and hotels close to the border tended to be worse affected.

ASM said: "This indicates that the lower rate of VAT in Ireland and the very unfavourable sterling exchange rate are having a negative impact on parts of the industry. Indeed, it is a major concern for some hoteliers."

And it had mainly been hotels in Belfast which had soaked up the benefits of big tourist events like the Titanic centenary of 2012 and last year's Giro d'Italia cycle race.

But ASM said: "There is no doubt that the strengthening of sterling and the lower rate of VAT in Ireland has started to cause problems for many hotels located close to the border."

Michael Williamson at ASM said: "The overall demand for hotel bedrooms across Northern Ireland increased in 2014, but that average is being influenced by the very strong performance of the Belfast market, which accounts for around 40% of the total room stock in the country."

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