Belfast Telegraph

Surprise rise in bookings will lift the whole country

Business View: By David Elliott

Build it and they will come, Kevin Costner was told in the film, Field of Dreams. Such a phrase could just as easily have been attributed to the likes of Titanic Belfast, the MTV events and the Irish Open Golf Championship, just three occasions that made 2012 a pretty big deal for Northern Ireland.

We whooped, we criticised, we rejoiced, we lamented but at the end of the day, as they say in sporting parlance, it seems the events hit the back of the tourism net.

According to ASM, the number of hotel rooms occupied during 2012 climbed 15% to a massive 270,000.

That is welcome news to a sector of the economy which has suffered more than most as a result of the downturn, not just from a drop in tourist numbers but also from a drop in business travellers.

It's not just hoteliers which will be enjoying this boost to business with restaurants, bars and any other businesses which serve a travelling visitor likely to benefit. Probably one of the most interesting points for people involved in the trade in the survey was the increase in the average price of a room in Northern Ireland by £2 to £65 a night.

ASM's report shows prices tapered off over the preceding years so the ability to charge a few pounds more will bring a smile to their faces.

On the downside, the love hasn't been spread evenly across Northern Ireland with rural hotels not performing to the same standard as those in Belfast and Londonderry.

As the Northern Ireland economy lags behind London and the rest of the UK when it comes to recovery, so rural hotels lag behind those in the cities here.

But as an upturn in the fortunes of London eventually leads to a boost for Northern Ireland, so the boost to performance for the hotel sector will leach to all corners of the country.

For rural regions, it's a case of: "Build it, and they will eventually come."

Belfast Telegraph