Booming hotel data is good news for NI’s tourism industry

Morning View
Morning View

A decade ago, when Belfast had hotels opening up all over the city, the financial crisis hit.

For several years it seemed as if these new businesses might become white elephants.

Generally they performed reasonably well even in the depths of the economic downturn.

Visitors continued to visit Northern Ireland in respectable numbers.

Now however our hotels are positively booming.

There is no question of the Province having too many hotel rooms. It might well be that NI has too few of them.

The hospitality industry has just enjoyed a record year for hotel occupancy.

The rate was 77.9% for bedrooms. Belfast did particularly well, but Londonderry suffered a fall in profits.

The reasons for this success are multiple.

Belfast is increasingly attractive for conferences, particularly now that the Waterfront Hall has been enlarged.

One of the biggest current factors in the attractiveness of Northern Ireland is the weak sterling, which means that visitors from America and continental Europe get more for their dollar or euro.

There is a further factor that bodes well for the future: an increasingly large number of people in the world can now afford overseas travel who could never afford it at before.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese can afford trips abroad, or will soon be able to afford it. This is why Chinese tour buses are such a common sight in places such as north Antrim.

Northern Ireland has many attractions: the north coast, the Lakelands, the Maiden city, Belfast, the Mournes, among other highlights.

Many tourists are also curious about our troubled past.

We need a clear strategy on how to preserve some murals with local agreement, while at the same time normalising neighbourhoods.

But this is a promising time for our tourist industry.