UK Hoteliers Envy the Luck of the Irish

Since its addition to the HotelBenchmark Survey in January, Belfast has
raised its profile to become the top-performing market so far this year in
terms of revenue per available room (revPAR) growth, on the UK edition of
the HotelBenchmark Survey by Deloitte
In August, Belfast reported a 10.5 percent increase in revPAR over the
previous year, placing it fourth in terms of growth behind Reading, Cardiff
and York - an admirable performance which nevertheless belies the true
strength of its performance throughout 2003. Year-to-date, revPAR has grown
by 12 percent, driven primarily by occupancy (9.7 percent) from the
conference and exhibition market.

Year-to-August 2003 figures show that Belfast occupancies and average room
rates are trading roughly in line with the regional UK average.  The capital
has benefited not only from the shift in public perception over recent years
regarding safety, as the political situation in Northern Ireland has
stabilized but also from the glut of major conferences and events, such as
the Special Olympic Games, that have been held this year.  Furthermore the
growth in the low-cost airline sector at Belfast International Airport has
helped open up travel between the Belfast and mainland UK, where the bulk of
non-domestic corporate and leisure business is derived.  Latest figures
from TBI plc show that during the second quarter of 2003, passenger numbers
from low cost airlines increased by 23.6 percent to 756,500.

At this point the only potential black cloud on Belfast’s horizon, apart
from any further major political issues, is whether the city can turn in
another year of strong conference business in 2004.  In terms of supply,
although a number of hotel chains have expressed an interest in the city,
relatively few have yet to send the builders in.  Recent openings have
included the 120-room Ramada Belfast, which opened in November of 2002 and a
244-room Days hotel which opened in May this year.  A 140-room Radisson SAS
is also due to open its doors next year.