Northern Ireland Hotels Federation Releases Groundbreaking Report: Hotels 2024

The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) has launched a report, “Hotels 2024”, providing a comprehensive analysis of the current hotel landscape, investments, and emerging trends. The report, launched as part of the Federation’s Business Outlook event hosted by Mark Simpson at the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel on 20 March 2024, marks a significant milestone as the NIHF celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year.

Eddie McKeever, President of Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), said: “The industry has been transformed since 1999 investing over £1.5 billion and almost doubling the number of bedrooms in the sector. As a profession we support 10,000 jobs directly and a further 5,000 either indirectly or induced. It is a story of success which has the ability to grow and provide further economic benefit to Northern Ireland.”

Janice Gault, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), shared insights gleaned from the report, noting the presence of over seventy hotel-related projects, with nine currently underway. She said: “The recent 2% growth in hotel bedrooms in 2023 has been fuelled by notable openings such as The Ebrington Hotel in Derry-Londonderry and Room2 hometel in Belfast. At the moment, there are nine live projects which represent £100 million in investment, with potential future investments reaching £200 million. Progress from concept to construction is a protracted one with projects adapting and evolving to reflect new consumer trends. Predictions for 2024 suggest growth around the 2% level this year with a spurt in the 2025-26 timeframe.

“The advantages of purchasing existing hotels over building new ones are twofold: speed and cost-effectiveness. Given the challenges of inflation and rising construction costs, acquiring a hotel presents a significantly faster and more economical option. This approach aligns with current industry trends, as evidenced by a notable shift towards mid to upper-scale star ratings. Emerging patterns include the revitalisation of historic sites into hotels, offering guests an authentic and immersive experience.

“Furthermore, there is a burgeoning market for resort properties, characterised by diverse experiences and dining options onsite. The popularity of in-house dining post-pandemic demonstrates the importance of these amenities. To meet evolving guest preferences, hotels are diversifying their offerings with independent dwellings, suites, and apartments alongside traditional hotel bedrooms.

“The average hotel is now 65 bedrooms. The report notes a market trend towards polarisation, with boutique hotels coexisting alongside larger-scale developments. While political stability and the return of The Northern Ireland Executive have been welcomed, challenges persist, including securing affordable financing, addressing the 20% VAT rate, attracting suitable staff, and navigating the impending introduction of the ETA, perceived as a potential barrier to all-island tourism development.”

Despite the challenges, the report reinforces the industry’s resilience and commitment to growth, with continued investments driving job creation and community transformation. Over the past twenty-five years, the sector has witnessed a £1.5 billion investment, resulting in a vibrant hospitality landscape. Looking ahead, the NIHF anticipates another transformative phase, further solidifying its position as a cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s economy.

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