Belfast Telegraph

Hospitality industry on upturn as expert sees the demand for properties increase

By John Mulgrew

Demand for pub, restaurant and hotel properties has surged across Northern Ireland, according to one commercial property expert. Gavin Weir, director of hospitality at commercial property agency GVA NI, has said there has been a "marked upturn" in demand in the hospitality industry.

The growth came as the sector "emerges from one of the industry's most challenging periods", Mr Weir said.

Recent activity which the agency has been involved in includes the sale of popular pubs The House and The Crescent Townhouse in south Belfast, and The Bureau in Whiteabbey.

GVA NI has been involved in a number of transactions this year that appear to show licensed opportunities are back on the menu for both investors and owner operators.

"The market has developed to the stage where there are essentially three types of buyer, the larger owner operator groups, the leisure landlord and the private individual," Mr Weir said.

"This has been particularly evident when handling a number of recent sales which have included popular pubs such as The House in Stranmillis, The Bureau in Whiteabbey, The Wallace in Lisburn and The Oceanic in Donaghadee."

It's understood The Wallace was sold for £600,000, while The Bureau fetched £1m. And it's understood The House in Stranmillis was sold for around £800,000.

Mr Weir was also involved in a number of hotel deals including The Belmont Hotel in Banbridge and the Beannchor group's new hotel development at Lagan House in Belfast.

"Investors and operators alike are again being attracted to the returns available in the hospitality sector, where the risk may be slightly higher but the reward can be significantly more attractive than the traditional commercial property sectors," he said.

"Hotel demand remains focused on Belfast city centre, however, and we have two major city centre requirements currently for large groups which remain unfulfilled".

According to the latest analysis released by business advisers PwC last week, Belfast hotels are outperforming those in the rest of the UK.

PwC's research showed that during the first six months of 2015, the average occupancy in Belfast's hotels rose from 75% to 79.3%.

That was well ahead of both the overall UK national half-year performance at 76.4% and the UK regional (outside London) occupancy of 75%.

And around 20 new hotels are planned for the city. The new hotels include Titanic Hotel at the former Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices, City Quays Hotel, Grand Central Hotel, Bedford Street and Blackstaff Square Hotel. Together they will add an extra 2,500 rooms to the existing 4,000.

PwC's Martin O'Hanlon said growth was uneven around the UK regions.

"The recent variable performance in London in the first half of 2015 has been in contrast with improved performance in the regions where cities like Belfast, Birmingham and Nottingham are performing particularly well," he added.

Belfast Telegraph