Occupancy Figures For NI’s Hotel Industry Confirm Sector Optimism

OCCUPANCY figures for Northern Ireland’s Hotel Industry in 2015 paint a positive picture for the sector.

With an average occupancy of 74.1%, up 2.4% on 2014 figures, average daily room rates of £63.90, an 8.2% increase on 2014’s rates, and average revenue of £47.36 per room, a 10.9% increase on 2014’s figures.

Ciaran O’Neill, President of NIHF and operator of Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Derry-Londonderry with Sarah Duignan, Director of Account Management, STR Global

Ciaran O’Neill, President of NIHF and operator of Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Derry-Londonderry with Sarah Duignan, Director of Account Management, STR Global

Ciaran O’Neill, President of Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and operator of Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Derry-Londonderry, discusses last year’s trading and the opportunities that 2016 holds: “It is useful to outline what the sector looks like. There are currently 135 hotels in Northern Ireland, equating to 7,823 bedrooms. Approximately 76% of visitors who use commercial accommodation opt for hotels. For the last five years hotel numbers have stayed at the same level, with the last real growth taking place between 2005 and 2007.

“Occupancy figures for accommodation in Northern Ireland indicate that Belfast is performing well. Indeed, in some ways it is bolstering the figures for Northern Ireland as a whole, as there has been a small drop in occupancy figures in rural areas.

“Northern Ireland has been slow to come out of recession but globally trading has improved. Recently, with improved confidence, finance is also more readily available and property development is deemed viable. This is evident in the fact that there are a significant number of new hotel projects in the planning and development phases, with over 20 in Belfast and three in Derry-Londonderry alone.”

“Confidence in the sector is also supported by the fact that we’re seeing the introduction of new brands to Northern Ireland. We had the recent announcement that a Hampton by Hilton is set to be developed in the Hope Street area of Belfast and we know that Marriott, Premier Inn and others international players have Northern Ireland in their sights.”

C26E1DKA02By the end of 2018, Belfast is expected to have around 1,000 new bedrooms, an increase of 25% on current accommodation levels.

Discussing the performance figures and the sector; Sarah Duignan, Director of Account Management, STR Global added: “Northern Ireland as a region has recovered well post downturn but this is especially true of Belfast. Year end 2005 Belfast achieved an occupancy of 75%, an Average Daily Rate (ADR) of £64.00 and a Revenue Per Available Room (revPAR) of £48.03. Roll on 10 years to present day and Belfast has seen a significant increase in room count along with a Global Economic crisis but has managed to come out on top with Year end 2015 occupancy of 78.5%, ADR of £65.11 and revPAR at £51.10.

“Derry-Londonderry has also not faired too badly, occupancy is almost back to 2008 levels at 62.8% by year end 2015 and ADR just shy of £55 followed by revPAR at £34.52 with only 60pence lacking to achieve the 2008 peak. Whilst Belfast and Derry-Londonderry are the two primary markets reported on by STR Global in Northern Ireland, we are looking forward to also being able to share the successes of the “South West Ulster” hotel market when we launch this as our third key Northern Ireland market in February 2016.”

Undoubtedly there will be challenges in 2016, but as Northern Ireland Hotels Federation Chief Executive Janice Gault explained there are also opportunities with considerable interest in the sector, and a myriad of new projects underway. She said the sector sees people as one of its greatest assets and is investing in training and development and promotional activity in order to maintain its current customer base and expand into new markets to attract new visitors: “The Federation has developed a range of events and initiatives such as the Housekeeping Awards and Receptionist of the Year to promote the region’s hotels and showcase excellence within the industry. As 2016 is the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink, the Federation is planning a series of events to mark this, including awarding a best hotel restaurant, staging a tourism food summit and launching the year with a healthy breakfast option.

“Attracting young people into the industry and ensuring they have the appropriate skill level is vital for the sector to succeed and grow. To encourage young people and promote the great opportunities the industry has to offer, the NIHF is supporting a competition with Northern Ireland Colleges of Further Education to find the best chef and food service student.

Janice Gault

Janice Gault

“The Federation is also delighted to be working in partnership with the Department of Employment and learning as well as the sector skills council, People 1st on a sector specific job fair. The Federation will be hosting a Big Hospitality Conversation in conjunction with this event to highlight the great opportunities the sector has and gain job pledges from local employers.

“For members who are keen to develop and hone their skills, we will be running an executive program in conjunction with Invest NI. Those who take part will attend a tailored executive residential workshop in Northern Ireland, followed by an educational trip to the internationally acclaimed Cornell University School of Hospitality. The trip will finish with a benchmarking study in New York as well as key meetings with North American tour operators and Tourism Ireland. A number of networking events will also be staged over the course of 2016, starting with a member lunch which took place on 28th January in the Merchant Hotel.

“Marketing Northern Ireland as a holiday destination is also something which the NIHF actively engage. In addition to skill development which helps to maintain employment in local towns and cities, we also work with a range of partners to attract visitors to Northern Ireland and generate revenue for the sector.

“The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation produces the only short break guide for the sector in partnership with Tourism NI. The publication goes to all visitor information centres and is used in consumer promotions. It is supported by competitions and ancillary advertising. NIHF is committed to helping our sector reach its full potential.”