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Overseas buyers help boost Northern Ireland's thriving hotel market

By John Mulgrew

Published 10/11/2015

Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast
Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast

Investment in Northern Ireland hotels has reached almost £70m this year alone - buoyed by buyers coming from the US and the Republic. And it's been buoyed by a handful of big transactions, including the sale of the luxury Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh and Belfast's Jury's Inn.

Other sales this year include the Fitzwilliam Hotel and Crescent Townhouse in Belfast, as well as the Ramada in Portrush.

This year US buyers have accounted for 44% of all transactions by value, which included the sale of Lough Erne.

At present there are a limited number of hotels on the market, with new and existing hoteliers actively seeking to enter and expand within the Belfast market, CBRE said.

Brian Lavery, managing director of CBRE Belfast, said: "The current stock in Belfast is well-serviced with budget hotels whilst the majority in the pipeline are four-star hotels.

"These new four-star hotels are critical for Belfast, so the city can attract and service large conferences at the extended Waterfront Hall."

And around 20 new hotels are already in the works for the city.

New hotels include Titanic Hotel at the former Harland & Wolff drawing offices, City Quays, Grand Central, Bedford Street and Blackstaff Square Hotel.

That could mean up to an extra 4,000 rooms added to Belfast's burgeoning hotel portfolio.

"Statistics show encouraging levels of growth in both occupancy and average daily rate," said Mr Lavery.

And he added: "However, there is a significant pipeline of new hotels planned for Belfast.

"And based on our research, there is a potential pipeline of approximately 3,900 additional rooms which if developed would more than double the current room stock in the city.

"While we believe that there is demand for an extra 1,000 to 1,500 new bedrooms in the city over the next three to five years, we would be concerned if all the bedrooms in the pipeline were built out."

Work has already begun on refurbishing and relaunching Ten Square, just behind City Hall, after the former John Miskelly property was bought by developer Paddy Kearney.

The Bedford Hotel at the Scottish Mutual Building in the city centre is also now under way.

And work could start on the new £30m Grand Central hotel in Belfast early next year.

The four-star, 200-bedroom Grand Central Hotel will transform the 23-storey Windsor House in the city centre - the single biggest investment by family-run Hastings Hotels in its history.

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