Momentum builds in Northern Ireland

The hosting of the Open championship in 2025 has acted as a catalyst for hotel development in Northern Ireland, where international brands are now starting to make their presence felt.

Northern Ireland’s hotel sector is expected to see around GBP300m of investment in development and refurbishment, over the next five years.

Already, nine hotel projects are under way, according to an update from the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, a trade body that is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2024. Those nine are the leading developments out of a total of 70 that the organisation has noted, which are at various stages of progression.

Ready for the Open

Those nine live projects will add approximately 560 rooms to the existing hotel stock, which across Northern Ireland adds up to just over 9,600 rooms. Five of the developments are in Belfast, one is in Londonderry and the other three are on the north coast, where the hosting of the Open golf championship in 2025 has spurred on hotel development and refurbishment activity.

“The industry has been transformed since 1999 investing over £1.5bn and almost doubling the number of bedrooms in the sector,” said Eddie McKeever, president of NIHF. “As a profession we support 10,000 jobs directly and a further 5,000 either indirectly – it is a story of success which has the ability to grow and provide further economic benefit to Northern Ireland.”

Independent hotel operators still dominate the Northern Irish hotel market, though international brands including Hilton, Crowne Plaza and Marriott have arrived. Local hotel groups including Hasting, McKeever and Galgorm are also key players in the sector.

Belfast boom

Upcoming arrivals in the market include two from IHG, which will open a 120 room Voco branded hotel in late 2024, following refit of the former Radisson Blu. The group will also introduce its Staybridge Suites extended stay brand to the city, with a planned late 2027 opening. And in the Titanic Quarter, work is advancing on a dual branded hotel development for Marriott, which will feature its Aloft hotel brand alongside the serviced apartment flag Residence Inn.

The stalled George Best hotel in city now looks set to advance once more, after its developer fell into administration. Martin Property Group acquired the historic property, aiming to complete the Bedford hotel, which will have 102 rooms. And at the city’s airport, leading economy brand Premier Inn has plans to add another hotel, building its presence as it pushes to grow both north and south of the Irish border.

To the north, developer Andras House is upgrading the Marcus Hotel, a listed Victorian building. It will open in 2025 with 83 rooms, and will trade under Hilton’s Tapestry Collection brand. In Ballycastle, the Salthouse hotel is undergoing a GBP3.5m extension, doubling room capacity, while Dunluce Lodge, the first five star hotel in the region, is heading towards completion. US owners Links Collection have hired international hotel operator Valor Hospitality to ensure guests enjoy outstanding service.