North-West hoteliers have been enjoying greater occupancy growth than their Belfast counterparts in the past year, according to leading figures in the industry.
The area’s strong performance was highlighted at the publication of Hotel Expansion Report at Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Londonderry.
Representatives from the local sector were in attendance to hear that for Northern Ireland 2016 proved to be a solid year for business.
Annual figures released from benchmarking company STR showed hotel occupancy in the province growing by 2.8% with room rates increasing by 7.5%.
Janice Gault, CEO of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said: “Many had predicted much higher occupancy levels. However, 2016 was very much a year of two halves with a sluggish first six months presenting a considerable challenge for the sector. The strong performance in the second half of the year effectively meant 2016 came in only slightly ahead of 2015.
“When looking at the figures in more detail, it was clear that Belfast had a very poor first six months trading. The city trailed significantly behind the record 2015 figures until June. This has offset a record second summer with the city trading at over 90%.
“Also of interest was the fact that regional destinations like Derry and Fermanagh fared better, with Derry growing occupancy and a similar picture emerging in Fermanagh.”
One of the most significant aspects of 2016 has been the volume of expansion that has taken place. Currently, over 20 projects are likely to open in the province by 2018, adding an additional 2,000 rooms to the region’s hotel bed-stock.
Sarah Duignan, director of Client Relationships at STR, stated: “The market has been sporadic at times and it’s important to bear in mind that there haven’t been any major hotel openings for nearly a decade. A significant influx of new hotels could shift the balance and result in changes to the market’s performance levels.”
The event to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the sector was organised by NI Hotels Federation.
Ciaran O’Neill, president of the federation, said: “It is important to note that hotels trade over a 365-day period and it is imperative that we develop additional business for off season periods and continue to try and grow rates. The latter half of 2016 has certainly raised the bar and we hope that this trend will continue into 2017.”
Londonderry’s strong performance was a further fillip for the area which has received a number of boosts recently. Roe Park Resort won Best Golf Resort in Ulster at the Golfers Guide to Ireland Awards, while Bishop’s Gate was ranked second in the UK’s top 25 rated hotels in the annual Travellers’ Choice awards. Meanwhile, a £1.5M refurbishment of the Grand Ballroom in the Everglades Hotel in the Waterside is on track to reopen at the beginning of April.