Hot off the press are the hotel performance figures for 2017 collated by STR, the global hotel benchmarking company. The report shows a strong year in Northern Ireland with growth in all regions and strengthening performance indicators.


Occupancy for Northern Ireland in 2017 was 77.7% (up 2.9%) on the 2016 figures. Belfast had the best performance with occupancy breaking the elusive 80% mark and room rates growing to £79.83.


Room rates grew in all regions and a double digit RevPAR growth was recorded for the year.  Overall, it was a very solid performance but the hotel landscape is facing a seismic change!


Hotel expansion has dominated the news over the last year and with up to ten new hotels scheduled to open in 2018, expansion will remain the hot topic. Sustained growth means that the number of hotel rooms is likely to break the 10,000 mark by 2019. Much has been made of the surge of new hotels and the impact on the market. In Belfast and Derry-Londonderry alone, there could be growth of up to 40% in bedrooms. Such a marked increase will bring both challenges and opportunities for the region.


Sarah Duignan, Director of Client Relationships at STR said: “Hotels in Northern Ireland performed quite well in 2017. The market still has room for growth, and there will likely be a period of adjustment ahead as existing hotels adapt to the added competition of new properties coming online. Taking comparable destinations that have experienced similar growth patterns into consideration, Northern Ireland should be able to absorb new hotel supply relatively quickly, with minimal impact on performance.”


Commenting on the figures, Janice Gault, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation said: “The STR figures for 2017 show a good overall performance which builds on the recovery experienced in the second half of 2016. Growth in occupancy was supported by an improvement in room rate throughout all regions which is great news. The influx of new hotels may result in some rate deflation but it is important to maintain a balance between striving for occupancy and maintaining an average daily rate. The data indicates room sales in 2.3m bedrooms sold throughout the year contributed £175m to the local economy with a VAT contribution of £35m. Despite considerable growth in the Northern Ireland market, room rates remain comparatively low when you look at the ROI market. In 2017, Dublin had an average room rate of €136.80 and regional Ireland came in at €125.95.”


She added: “The STR data shows a dynamic marketplace with many areas still facing a seasonal challenge and a fragile performance in shoulder seasons. This is reflected in poor occupancy and a deflated room rate. However, they highlight the considerable economic contribution that hotels are making throughout the region: employing over 8,000 people with this figure set to grow to over 9,000 by the end of 2018, while generating total revenue in the region of £500m.


“There are a number of challenges for the industry but staffing remains the primary cause for concern. We know that employers are experiencing issues with recruitment and retention of staff.  There is a lack of skilled personnel and this coupled with a poor image of roles within the industry are all contributory factors. An increase in demand for staff from new openings will clearly exacerbate the situation and may constrain growth. We need to be working with education providers to find innovative solutions to address these issues, ultimately capitalising on the positive opportunities that this investment presents for Northern Ireland society as a whole.”