Hotel industry in Belfast could face tough year after expansion in 2018
Belfast's expanded hotel sector may face a tough year as fears mount that Brexit could hit demand, according to a report today.
Business advisory firm PwC's hotel forecast said Belfast, where six new hotels were opened during 2018, had enjoyed the UK's highest percentage growth in room numbers last year, at 22.7%.
That level of growth was far above the next highest increase of 8% in Southampton.
Belfast also remains the fourth most expensive out of 22 cities in the UK in which to stay, with the average room rate at £79.46, behind London, Edinburgh and Brighton.
But the industry measure of revenue per available room (RevPAR) for Belfast - calculated by multiplying the average achieved room rate by the average annual room occupancy rate - had shown the greatest fall in the UK at 6.3%.
However, at £60.93, the rate for Belfast was still above the UK regional average of £55.46.
Northern Ireland's occupancy rate also had the highest growth of any UK city, at 15.5%.
Last year saw the opening of a string of new hotels, including the AC Marriott at City Quays, easyHotel at Howard Street, the Hampton by Hilton at Hope Street, and the £40m Grand Central Hotel at Bedford Street.
And during 2019, another 300 rooms are expected to be added thanks to projected new openings including the George Best Hotel in the Scottish Mutual Building at Donegall Square.
Martin Cowie, PwC partner, said that while tourism in Northern Ireland had enjoyed a strong year during 2018, there was concern over Brexit and the impact it might have on hotels.
He said: "With the impact of Brexit, where reports suggest that potential travellers to the UK - particularly from across Europe - are adopting a 'wait and see' attitude, and with a further increase of 5% in the volume of rooms available, the local hotel sector may start to feel pressure on occupancy rates.
"However, on a positive note, the proactive response from the business community to engage with tourism leaders on strategic campaigns could play an important role in helping to combat the potential threats to the sector."
PwC said that Tourism NI's numbers of five million visitors to Belfast during 2018 had doubled expectations set in 2017 of 2.3 million.
And the business advisory firm said even more business visitors could come during this year, thanks to the launch of a year-long campaign led by Visit Belfast to raise awareness of the city as a destination for conferences and events.
The return of The Open golf championship to Royal Portrush in July is also expected to bring around 190,000 spectators, including many overseas visitors who are likely to include a stay in Belfast in their itineraries.