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Belfast’s AC Marriott reduces its losses as hotel industry warns of staffing challenges


AC Marriott Hotel

AC Marriott Hotel

AC Marriott Hotel

Belfast’s AC Marriott Hotel reduced its losses from £1.6m to £160,000 as the challenges posed by Covid-19 receded last year, its latest accounts show.

City Quays Hotel Ltd, a subsidiary of Belfast Harbour Commissioners and the company behind the AC Marriott, reported turnover of £3.5m for 2021, up from £2m in 2020.

The details came as a separate industry report showed a healthy occupancy rate for hotels in Northern Ireland of 81.1% during June, with Belfast claiming the strongest performance.

But the NI Hotels Federation warned that the industry is facing a struggle to recruit staff.

The £25m AC Marriott, which has 188 bedrooms and a Jean-Christophe Novelli restaurant, opened in April 2018 and was the first on the island of Ireland to operate as an AC Marriott.

According to accounts for 2021 which have just been filed at Companies House, the business received £145,060 from the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) during 2021, compared to £275,144 a year.

It received an additional £572,915 in business grants over the period, compared to zero business grants a year earlier.

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There was £87,324 paid in key management personnel compensation, which was up slightly from £85,300 in 2020.

The report said there had been continued restrictions on the hotel during 2021, when Covid-19 lockdowns meant that hotels were closed until late May.

In the report, the directors said: “The directors have taken a number of steps to reduce the cash outflows during this period, including availing of the government furlough scheme for the majority of staff together with business support grants and accessing business rate holidays.

“Additionally, the parent entity of the company has a strong cash and balance sheet position, and has indicated its willingness to support the company through the current crisis, should financial support be required.”

They added that they were confident the company had enough resources to continued trading, with the financial statements prepared on a going concern basis.

The company’s accounts were published as statistics emerged showing hotel room occupancy in NI for the year so far has been 66.4%, behind pre-pandemic levels.

The NI Hotels Federation said the occupancy rate published by industry body STR was four percentage points behind the first half of 2019. However, the market has been picking up month by month during 2022.

Janice Gault, the federation’s chief executive, said that during June, the occupancy rate was 81.1% and the average room rate £107.41.

She added: “Overall, Belfast has seen the strongest performance supported by events, return of conferences and its attraction as a short break destination. Other locations continue to report good trading based on leisure, weddings and the return of tour business.”

But Ms Gault said the level of vacancies in the sector and a lack of people to fill them was a major challenge. Chef and kitchen staff were particularly sought after, she said.

“A recent member poll highlighted how performance is being curtailed by recruiting difficulties. There are currently 146 hotels trading in Northern Ireland and, with a full staffing complement, they would support 10,000 direct positions.

“All hotels polled had vacancies which equate to around 1,000 jobs to be filled…

“With one in 10 roles currently vacant within the hotel sector, the current performance is a remarkable bounce back and indicative of the contribution the industry can make.

“Further growth is possible with access to a wider labour market and support for the sector in terms of skills and education.”