Belfast Telegraph

Major events help Belfast and Londonderry hotels enjoy record bookings

By Clare Weir

Londonderry's year as UK City of Culture generated 15,500 additional hotel room nights in the city, while Belfast had its best year ever in 2013 for hotel bedroom demand, according to a new survey.

The annual Hotel Industry Survey published by ASM Chartered Accountants revealed that Belfast had an average occupancy rate of 78.6%, up from 73.2% in 2012, while the occupancy rate in August last year was 91.8% during the hosting of the World Fire and Police Games.

Michael Williamson, director of consulting at ASM, said that the industry could have been a lot worse off were it not for the major events of 2012 and 2013 and said that the results should encourage more bids for future sports and entertainment fixtures.

The report showed that the average rate per room sold across the country was £68.17, a 4% increase on previous year.

The revenue per available room average for 2013 in Northern Ireland was £51, the highest on record. Total revenues increased by 9.8% year on year, reflecting stronger trading in food and beverage operations and also in the conferences and meetings markets.

The number of bedrooms occupied by "out of state" visitors increased to 68.4% of total sales as against 67% in 2012, with the Republic of Ireland market in particular showing strong growth.

For the first time in many years the sector did not have to contend with operating costs increasing at a higher rate than income, meaning that the revenue uplift in 2013 led to improved profitability in most hotel segments.

"There is no question that these events have driven visitors into hotels, while helping to garner new respect and prestige for Northern Ireland as a whole," said Mr Williamson.

"Given the challenging economic climate of the past few years, one wonders what might have happened to the industry were it not for the programme of events in 2012 and 2013.

"In analysing the survey findings, it is clear that economic pressures may be easing for many.

"There was a large improvement in the performance of hotels operating in the five-star segment, while mid-market hotels typically experienced revenue and profit decline during 2013.

"This suggests that consumers are less price sensitive than they have been in recent years."

Belfast Telegraph