Leading business advisory firm, Grant Thornton, has said the record number of hotel rooms sold in Northern Ireland last year reflects a tourism sector that is in growth mode.

More than 2.3 million rooms were sold throughout 2019, representing an increase of 4% on the previous year, according to official figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Room occupancy rates were 67%, down from 70% in 2018.

The summer months were the busiest for the Northern Ireland hotel industry with more than 235,000 rooms sold in July alone, 15% higher than the same month in 2018. This was boosted by the staging of the Open golf championship in Portrush.

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb, Chief Economist at Grant Thornton said:

“While room occupancy rates were down marginally in 2019, this is reflective of a sector that is still absorbing the scale of the huge investment made over recent years.

“Around 4,500 new hotel rooms have been added over the past 18 months as hoteliers invested more than half a billion pounds. That will take time to settle into the market.

“A significant portion of the increase in rooms sold can be attributed to the busy summer season, driven in 2019 by the Open golf championship, with a massive spike to be observed around the staging of the tournament.

“These figures illustrate that the key challenge for the industry and government is to attract more events to Northern Ireland and create a more year-round tourist season, rather than relying so heavily on the summer months.”