Hotel chiefs warn of staffing problems in Northern Ireland
An industry body has warned that the recent surge of hotels in Northern Ireland could create problems in finding staff.
The Hotel Federation latest figures show unprecedented growth for the hotel sector but the lack of skilled personnel coupled with a poor image of the roles within the industry are resulting in less applicants.
In the past year, hotel occupancy rates in Northern Ireland have hit 77.7%, with the hospitality sector looking ahead to a promising 2018.
In 2017, Belfast had the best performance with occupancy breaking the 80% mark and room rates growing to an average of £79.83.
This marked increase can bring both challenges and opportunities for the region.
The figures from hotel information company STR showed that occupancy for Northern Ireland in 2017 increased by 2.9% compared to the previous year.
Sarah Duignan, Director of Client Relationships at STR said: "Hotels in Northern Ireland performed quite well in 2017.
"The market still has room for growth, and there will likely be a period of adjustment ahead as existing hotels adapt to the added competition of new properties coming online.
"Taking comparable destinations that have experienced similar growth patterns into consideration, Northern Ireland should be able to absorb new hotel supply relatively quickly, with minimal impact on perfromance."
Commenting on the figures, Janice Gault, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation said: "The STR figures for 2017 show a good overall performance which builds on the recovery experienced in the second half of 2016.
"The influx of new hotels may result in some rate deflation but it is important to maintain a balance between striving for occupancy and maintaining an average daily rate.
"The data indicates room sales in 2.3m bedrooms sold throughout the year contributed £175m to the local economy with a VAT contribution of £35m.
"Despite considerable growth in the Northern Ireland market, room rates remain comparatively low when you look at the ROI market. In 2017, Dublin had an average room rate of €136.80 and regional Ireland came in at €125.95."
She added: "There are a number of challenges for the industry but staffing remains the primary cause for concern. We know that employers are experiencing issues with recruitment and retention of staff.
There is a lack of skilled personnel and this coupled with a poor image of roles within the industry are all contributory factors. An increase in demand for staff from new openings will clearly exacerbate the situation and may constrain growth.
We need to be working with education providers to find innovative solutions to address these issues, ultimately capitalising on the positive opportunities that this investment presents for Northern Ireland society as a whole."
Belfast Telegraph Digital