Hotel room sales increase by 11%
A top hotelier has predicted greater gains for the tourism industry in Northern Ireland after a jump in room sales over the last year.
There were 178,000 rooms sold in hotels in June 2012, an annual increase of 11%. While businesses in Belfast enjoyed the biggest boost, the general manager of the Co Londonderry-based Roe Park Resort said he believed other areas would also feel the benefit.
George Graham claimed the huge publicity ahead of the opening of the Titanic Belfast attraction had helped the city, but he predicted other areas would gain from the unveiling of the Giant's Causeway visitor centre, the staging of the Irish Open in Portrush and the prospect of Derry becoming City of Culture in 2013.
"It is always good news to see more visitors enjoying Northern Ireland," he said. "We're hoping that we see an even greater benefit next year too."
Mr Graham, whose resort is based outside Limavady, said that while tour operators previously used Belfast as a launchpad for day trips to others areas, the increase in the number of major attractions across Northern Ireland will encourage longer stays.
He said the international media coverage surrounding the staging of golf's Irish Open at Portrush should increase interest while the City of Culture and the arrival of the all-Ireland Fleadh music event to the north west also held out the prospect of greater visitor numbers.
"The hope is next year that people will see a great ripple effect, so this is all very positive," he said.
Average room occupancy in hotels in June 2012 was 78%, an increase of eight percentage points when compared with June 2011. The new statistics showed that between January and June this year, hotels in the Belfast area experienced the highest rates in room and bed-space occupancy, which was 73%.
Hotels in the mid west experienced the lowest room and bed-space occupancy rates (46% and 28%). The hotel room occupancy in north west showed a decrease of one percentage point whereas all other areas showed increases, ranging from 1% in mid west to 15% in the south west.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board said: "The 16% increase in domestic visitors between January and May this year and the 7% increase in hotel occupancy is a positive indicator for tourism so far this year. 2012 is an important year of opportunity for tourism which will be vital to the creation of job opportunities in the industry in the years ahead."