Belfast Telegraph

World Police and Fire Games help hotels to bumper year

By Margaret Canning

The World Police and Fire Games and other big events helped hotels in Northern Ireland to record revenue per room last year, according to a survey.

Revenue per room was £51, a 6.4% rise on the 2012 average and the highest on record, the ASM Chartered Accountants' annual hotel industry survey revealed.

The research found there was growth in bedroom demand during the year, with an average bedroom occupancy rate of 74.8%, up from 73.2% in 2012.

ASM, which joined with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Merchant Hotel to present its research, said that August – the month of the World Police and Fire Games – had the best occupancy rate on record, at just under 92%. Other events that helped push up the rate across the year included Londonderry's tenure as the UK's City of Culture in 2013, and the arrival of the G8 conference of world leaders to Fermanagh in June.

Michael Williamson, director at ASM, said: "There is no question that Northern Ireland's programme of major events has driven visitors into hotels, while helping to garner new respect and prestige for Northern Ireland as a whole."

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

The number of bedrooms occupied by of 'out of state' visitors increased to 68.4% of total sales, compared to 67% in 2012.

The Republic of Ireland market, in particular, showed strong growth in bedroom demand.

Alan Clarke, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board said: "The tourism industry has enjoyed a fantastic few years of hosting successful major events, and the huge increase in infrastructure development has provided the visitors with a choice and quality of world-class things to see and do."

And he added that events of the calibre of May's Giro d'Italia, and forthcoming Irish Open in Portrush, would continue the momentum of last year.

Elsewhere, five-star hotels reported large gains, but three-star hotels experienced a modest revenue and profit decline.

ASM said the trend suggested consumers were "less price-sensitive than they have been in recent years".

The ASM hotel industry survey is the only comprehensive examination of hotel performance across Northern Ireland. For the past two years, it has recorded improved trading in hotels across the region, particularly in Belfast and Derry.

Bill Wolsey, owner of the five-star Merchant Hotel in Belfast, said: "Our management team finds the survey an invaluable benchmarking resource, which allows us to better understand the marketplace".

According to the survey, the average rate per room sold (excluding VAT) was £68.17, a 4% increase on the year before.

Total revenues were up 9.8% year-on-year, which ASM claimed was due to "generally stronger trading in food and beverage operations and in the conferences and meetings markets".

Overall, profit increased by 13.3% year on year.

Belfast Telegraph