Northern Ireland hotel performance for 2018 promising despite this year's room boom
Hotel occupancy rates have hit 77.7% in Northern Ireland as the sector looks to a promising 2018 despite an influx of new rooms on the market.
The figures from hotel information company STR showed that occupancy for Northern Ireland in 2017 increased by 2.9% compared to the previous year.
And Belfast performed best with its occupancy breaking the 80% mark and room rates growing to an average of £79.83.
New hotel completions are to add 1,000 new rooms.
Sarah Duignan, director of client relationships at STR, said: "The market still has room for growth, and there will likely be a period of adjustment ahead as existing hotels adapt to the added competition of new properties coming online.
"Taking comparable destinations that have experienced similar growth patterns into consideration, Northern Ireland should be able to absorb new hotel supply relatively quickly, with minimal impact on performance."
As of this month, there were 138 registered hotels in Northern Ireland. These include two new properties: the Titanic Hotel in Belfast and the Shipquay Hotel in Londonderry.
There were also additional rooms added to Bullitt Hotel and Ten Square, while construction continues on a number of significant projects in Belfast city which will see hotel room numbers break the 9,500 level by the end of this year.
This will include the opening of the AC Hotel by Marriott in April at Donegall Quay, the Maldron, and the Grand Central Hotel on Bedford Street in June.
Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), said: "The influx of new hotels may result in some rate deflation but it is important to maintain a balance between striving for occupancy and maintaining an average daily rate.
"Despite considerable growth in the Northern Ireland market, room rates remain comparatively low when you look at the Irish market. In 2017, Dublin had an average room rate of €136.80 and regional Ireland was €125.95.
"There are a number of challenges for the industry but staffing remains the primary cause for concern.
"We know that employers are experiencing issues with recruitment and retention of staff.
"There is a lack of skilled personnel and this, coupled with a poor image of roles within the industry, are all contributory factors.
She added: "An increase in demand for staff from new openings will clearly exacerbate the situation and may constrain growth. We need to be working with education providers to find innovative solutions to address these issues, ultimately capitalising on the positive opportunities that this investment presents for Northern Ireland society as a whole."