Dalata opens fourth Northern Ireland hotel and casts eyes on Europe
Ireland's biggest hotel group Dalata - which is about to open its fourth venue here - is plotting an eventual foray into Europe, it has emerged.
Chief executive Pat McCann said that Germany and the Benelux countries were among its likely targets.
But the hotel boss has stressed that such a move remains some way off, and won't happen until Dalata has exploited significant more opportunities in the UK.
"Once we're through that process, we're already looking at the next location where we might consider," Mr McCann said as Dalata published a strong set of 2017 results.
Next month it will open its fourth hotel in Northern Ireland - a Maldron in Belfast's Blackstaff Square off Bedford Street.
It already owns two Maldrons, one at Belfast International Airport and the other in Londonderry, as well as a Clayton Hotel in Belfast's Ormeau Avenue.
Mr McCann added that planning for moves into new locations begins two to three years in advance.
"We're not waiting but it's a little bit too soon to look beyond Ireland and particularly the UK. I don't want the concentration to come off those, because that's where most of the bang for our bucks is currently. It will be mainland Europe and it will be country-specific," he said.
"It's not a question that we dot ourselves all over the place. It's not our strategy. We like to build strong positions in each geographic region that we're in.
"Mainland Europe is a big place. It won't be the Mediterranean. It will be northern Europe, in a market where we know and understand."
He said Germany and the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) would be attractive.
"But it's early days. We have done some work, but not enough for us to be definitive at this point in time," added Mr McCann, who used to head up the Jurys Doyle hotel business. Stock market-listed Dalata saw its revenue jump 20% to €348.5m (£307m) last year, while its pre-tax profits rose 75% to €77.3m (£68m). It has a market capitalisation of just over €1bn (£0.88bn).
The group has a portfolio of 38 hotels, with 7,600 bedrooms. It is currently developing an additional 2,234 rooms. Dalata aims to expand significantly in the UK, having identified 20 cities as suitable for its Maldron and Clayton brands. The group benefited from an improvement in business across all regions last year, and also announced it will start paying a dividend to shareholders.