Price of Belfast hotel rooms rises 25% to average of £90 in one year
Hotel rooms in Belfast saw the steepest percentage price increase of any destination in the island of Ireland over the first six months of the year, it has been claimed.
Research by room sales website hotels.com said the average price per room in Belfast between January and June was €123 (£90), up 25% from the same period last year.
Dublin had the next highest percentage increase at 19%, and the highest room price on the island at €128 (£94).
Hotels.com said the strong sterling was the main factor behind the steep increase in Belfast rates. Northern Ireland hotels also pay Vat at the higher rate of 20%, compared to 9% in the Republic.
Matt Walls, vice-president of Europe, the Middle East and Asia at hotels.com, said: "The weaker euro has had an impact on prices paid by anyone travelling to Northern Ireland from the eurozone but prices for other travellers, particularly from US with the stronger dollar, have actually gone down.
"Destinations such as Belfast and Derry are extremely popular with both international and domestic travellers alike."
And he said event-driven tourism in Northern Ireland had also pushed up demand, with events such as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open pulling in visitors.
And there was a good mix of hotel offerings, with the preferences of American and European tourists varying.
"Northern Ireland has a good mix of both the major international chains, favoured by the American market, and smaller independent hotels preferred by many Europeans."
Janice Gault, the head of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said the hotels.com survey was based on a very small sample of around 6% of the market. But she added: "There's no doubt that the higher rate of Vat is a challenge."
And she said Dublin prices were naturally higher than Belfast.
"Dublin is back to pre-recession levels, and there have been no significant hotel openings there in the last five years or so. There are no new players coming in."
Bridgene McKeever, sales and marketing director of hotel chain McKeever Group, said Northern Ireland's high rate of Vat had made things tougher. The family-run hotel chain owns the Adair Arms in Ballymena, the Dunsilly Hotel in Antrim, Corrs Corner in Newtownabbey - as well as Dillons Hotel in Letterkenny, which the company bought last year.
"The Vat rate makes a massive difference in the price and value you can offer. And with sterling being so strong, a lot of operators are saying to us 'can you drop the rate'? But you can't really because exchange rates don't affect the Vat rate."
But she said demand for hotels in Belfast was high, so that visitors were spreading to the peripheral areas outside Belfast where her family hotels are found.
"We had a great summer overall and there is a lot more confidence in the market. We are getting corporate accounts coming back and wanting to open up an account, as opposed to wanting to shop around every time they are holding an event."