Belfast Telegraph

Hotels reap benefits of weak pound as occupancy soars

By John Mulgrew

A slump in the value of the pound has led to a surge in hotel occupancy across Northern Ireland due to an influx of visitors from the Republic and further afield, according to a new report.

The demand for hotel bedrooms across Northern Ireland in 2016 increased to a record -high occupancy rate of 77.9%. That’s a small improvement over 2015’s 77.5%.

And also, according to the ASM Chartered Accountants’ annual hotel industry survey, the average room rate increased by 4.1% to £77.95.

The increase in overall occupancy falls in line with the latest official tourism figures, which show the number of tourists visiting Northern Ireland from the Republic has risen by 10%.

But while Belfast had a record year in terms of demand, with occupancy levels at 83.5%, along with increased room rates and profits, other areas saw a decrease.

In Londonderry, while demand for rooms increased, income in other areas of operations declined. The report also said that profits in the city also declined in 2016.

But Neil Devlin, general manager of the Everglades Hotel in Londonderry, part of the Hastings Hotels group, said the hotel “continues to achieve increased occupancy year-on-year”.

“In fact, 2016 was a record year for the hotel for the fourth year running.

“Our bed nights are unprecedented and we have once again surpassed the overall occupancy we achieved in 2013 when Londonderry was the UK City of Culture,” he said.

“This success continues across Hastings Hotels with each of our six hotels trading positively in 2016 and I am pleased to report that this is already proving to be the case in 2017 with a strong year to date across the group.

“The Grand Central Hotel in Belfast, is progressing well and is on target for the projected completion date of June 2018.”

Michael Williamson, director of consulting at ASM, said: “2016 turned out to be an outstanding year overall and broke many records, although for some, there was a sluggish start to the year.

“Without doubt, the almost instant decline in the value of sterling on the back of the EU referendum result in June 2016 boosted our competitiveness as a destination and in Belfast especially this made a tangible difference to the demand for accommodation in the second half of the year.

“But it would be wrong to credit all of the progress in 2016 to the exchange rate movement.

“There was already underlying growth in many areas outside of the capital city, while in Belfast the opening of the extended Waterfront Hall has massively improved its appeal to the meetings, conventions and exhibitions segments — a very important and high spending tourism market that we expect to add materially to the demand for accommodation in future years.”

The number of overnight stays in Northern Ireland increased by 1%, climbing to 4.6 million between October 2015 and September last year, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency said.

Overall spending by tourists increased by 10% to £820.9m.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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