1,170 new hotel rooms springing up in Belfast
Belfast city centre is this year offering visitors an extra 1,170 hotel rooms after a boom in development, according to a report released today.
From a Titanic-themed venue to the George Best Hotel, hoteliers are making use of Belfast's heritage.
But with the new hotels all falling into the three or four-star brackets, it's claimed that Belfast may soon need a new crop of five-star venues.
The Belfast Hotel Market Snapshot by agents Lambert Smith Hampton maps out all the new hotels added this year, as well as hotels which have added extensions.
The changes have boosted the supply of rooms by 47% to over 9,000. The average daily room rate has also grown by 25% to £81.65.
Many of the new venues have been added by long-established family businesses, from Hastings Hotels' Grand Central to Andras Hotels' Hampton by Hilton. Others have been planned by newcomers such as Ben and Peter Ringland's The Flint Hotel.
Hastings Hotels' Bedford Street four-star Grand Central Hotel added 304 rooms and marked another nod to heritage as its name was taken from the old Grand Central Hotel, which traded in Royal Avenue from 1893 to 1971.
Other big openings this year include the three-star Maldron Hotel, which brought 237 rooms, the 188 rooms added by the four-star AC Hotel Marriott and three-star Hampton by Hilton's 179 rooms. Across four hotels, another 183 rooms are under construction and due to open their doors early next year.
They include the George Best Hotel and its 63 sport-themed rooms and Bank Square Boutique Hotel, which is adding 17 rooms.
Darren Fitzsimons, director of hotels at Lambert Smith Hampton, said: "Belfast's tourism industry is booming and it is brilliant to see the hotel sector reacting to demand this year."
He said that both overnight trips and expenditure had doubled over the last 10 years.
Mr Fitzsimons added the new crop of hotels was addressing a long-standing lack of supply.
"While 2017 was a record year for hotel demand in Belfast, with average occupancy standing at 81.5%, hotel development has taken some time to respond," he said.
"Limited new stock and rising demand left the market acutely under-supplied."
Claire Cole, senior research analyst at Lambert Smith Hampton, said estimates from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency suggest continued growth in tourism, with a forecast of five million visitor trips and a spend of £1bn.
The £1bn threshold had long been a target for tourism by the Northern Ireland Executive.
She warned that the market, including the important measure of revenue per available room (RevPAR), will take some time to adjust to the new supply.
"In the short term, Belfast hotel occupancy rates, average room rates and RevPAR are likely to soften as the city adjusts to the unprecedented level of additional supply," she said.
"We expect the market to reposition itself before an injection of further investment and development after 2021.
"Recent developments have been principally in the three and four-star markets, creating a gap in the market for five-star hotels and luxury hotel brands not currently represented in the city but which are synonymous with truly great cities.
"When that happens, Belfast can justifiably claim to be among the elite of European hotel destinations," she added.