Occupancy rates fall in Belfast hotels as 1,000 new rooms are added
Occupancy rates at hotels in Belfast were down by around 4% during June after 1,000 new rooms were added in five venues, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
And while there are no official rates available for last month, Hastings Hotels boss Howard Hastings said occupancy rates had also fallen off during the month.
The addition of Belfast hotels like the Maldron, which brought 237 rooms, and the AC Marriott, contributing 188 new rooms, brought the occupancy level down from 92.2% in June last year to 87.9% in the same month this year.
The addition of the Grand Central in June - the seventh venue in the Hastings Hotels Group - added 300 rooms, while the Hampton by Hilton added 178 rooms. Andras Group, owners of the Hampton by Hilton, also added 60 rooms to its Holiday Inn Express.
Northern Ireland-wide, rates were 85.2%, down from 88.3%, according to the industry STR Global figures.
The addition of the rooms is increasing hotel stock by around one-third, up from 3630 at the end of 2016, according to Michael Williamson, a director at ASM Accountants and specialist in the sector.
In Londonderry, the occupancy rate was up slightly from 81.7% to 82.5%.
Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said: "New stock in Belfast has given rise to some pressure on occupancy and it will be interesting to see the effects of this in the longer term."
Hastings Hotels chief executive Howard Hastings said: "Hastings Hotels has enjoyed a busy summer to date but we haven't seen the peaks of 2017.
"The opening of the new hotels has seen occupancy figures for June and July fall off slightly and a dilution of rates...
"The good news for those who haven't yet booked their holidays is that there is still availability in Belfast with the exception of the weekend of Friday August 17 because of the Frampton fight.
"This shows the ability of world-class events to drive hotel demand."
He said a lower occupancy rate this summer may reflect that last summer had brought an increased number of visitors to Belfast for sporting events like the Uefa Ladies Under-19 European Championship and the Women's Rugby World Cup.
However, boxing fans are expected to flock to Belfast to witness Carl Frampton defend his WBO interim featherweight belt against Luke Jackson in Windsor Park on August 18.
Michael Williamson said there would be more rooms added over the next few months, when venues like the easyHotel in Howard Street opens -adding around 80 rooms - while the George Best Hotel at the former Scottish Mutual building was also due to open by the end of the year, and would add 70 rooms.
But he said the fall in occupancy so far did not mean there was cause for panic. "Demand can't really grow as fast as the supply is growing by adding 1,000 new rooms.
"But it wouldn't surprise me if by 2020 or 2021, we are back where were where a few years ago when it comes to occupancy rates," he commented.
Hotel room rates
The price for a double room in Belfast on Saturday, August 4:
Hampton by Hilton: £80 (www.hotels.com)
AC Marriott: £185
Maldron Hotel: £177
Grand Central £190