Belfast Telegraph

We're all booked up: hotels back in vogue

By David Elliott

Northern Ireland's £346m hotel sector is showing "encouraging signs of progress" following four difficult years, according to a new report by ASM Chartered Accountants.

It found bedroom occupancy rates amongst Northern Ireland's hotels climbed to 64.1% in 2011, up from 63.4% in 2010, with all sectors of the industry showing an increase

"Overall, the industry fared relatively well in 2011 with some hotel segments demonstrating impressive levels of growth," Michael Williamson, director of Consulting at ASM said.

"While this is by no means uniform and there will be some operators feeling some stress, by and large the results are a clear indication that the sector in Northern Ireland is relatively robust and that many operations are very well managed."

But while occupancy increased, the average room rate fell on the year.

It stood at £62.74, down from £64.83 last year for hotels in Northern Ireland as a whole. Rates for rooms in Belfast fell by £5 to £62.69, mostly because of "high levels of room-rate discounting".

But the picture was brighter for rural and resort/spa hotels in the five-star and three-star categories and those in Londonderry where rates increased.

Meanwhile, it seems more of us are choosing to holiday at home while the visitors from overseas are dwindling.

The report said the proportion of bedrooms booked by Northern Ireland residents climbed to 36.1% in 2011 from 27.4% while the number of rooms sold to visitors from Great Britain and Ireland fell.

Amidst these factors the industry also had to contend with higher operating costs, particularly for food and beverages, rates, energy and payroll but still managed to maintain a profit ratio of 16.8%.

Michael Williamson said the industry is in confident mood.

"The centenary of the launch of the RMS Titanic, Derry/Londonderry's success as UK City of Culture for 2013 and the opening of a number of world class visitor attractions, supported by a comprehensive events programme, are helping to build a very positive profile for Northern Ireland as a destination with something different to offer," he said.

"It seems likely that this will drive higher numbers of visitors in the current year and beyond."