US$1.5 billion of high end hotel investment to inspire Irish tourism

Nearly US$1.5 billion in premium hotel investment is heading to Ireland over the next few years, according to the latest THP data.

The financial boost will be spread across at least 74 nationwide projects comprising 9,810 keys.

Road to recovery

This should be welcome news for the Irish tourism industry, which is still on the road to recovery following the pandemic.

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) estimates that 7 million international visitors arrived in the Emerald Isle last year, which represents a 73% recovery compared to the pre-pandemic peak of 2019.

Of the country’s 2022 visitors, ITIC estimated that 2.6 million came from Mainland Europe, down 28% on 2019, 2.4 million came from Britain (-30%), 1.5 million came from North America (-22%) while 0.46 million came from long haul markets (-32%).

Uncertain future

However, looking forward, ITIC expressed significant concern that continued recovery would be threatened by soaring cost inflation, the energy crisis, and the impact of government contracts with tourism accommodation suppliers.

Estimates for 2023 range from a dip on 2022’s performance to single digit growth. The confederation analysed that air access and demand from key source markets look strong but economic headwinds globally, allied to cost inflation and supply constraints at home, make accurate forecasting challenging. ITIC estimates that a full tourism recovery to 2019 levels is not likely to be achieved until 2026.

Opening influx

Nevertheless, in the meantime, the influx of premium hotel openings may help to quell the uneasiness. THP records show that at least 12 developments will complete this year, with the same number again slated for 2024. A further six are due in 2025, but the vast majority, the remaining 43 hotels, are yet to be designated a delivery date.

Four star sites form the lion’s share of high end projects, with at least 64 on the books (88% of the pipeline) compared to just nine five star hotels.

Dublin dominance

Capital city Dublin remains the geographical development hub in Ireland, with at least 42 sites planned, representing 58% of the overall pipeline.

In a distant second is Cork, with seven projects, while Kilkenny is third on four sites.

Independence way

Just 11 projects are allied to major hotel brands, meaning that 63 hotels (85% of the pipeline) are independent sites.

Out of the branded properties, only Accor appears twice, through its Sofitel Hotels & Resorts brand and its Ennismore division’s The Hoxton line. Groups including Minor Hotels, with its Anantara Hotels & Resorts brand, Fattal Hotel Management’s NYX Hotels and Dalata Hotels Group’s Maldron Hotels & Partners each have one property on the slate.

Brand entries

The Anantara site is The Marker Hotel in Dublin, representing the brand’s Irish entry and indeed its first urban hotel in Europe. The rebrand of the existing 187-key hotel will complete in Q2 this year.

A recent addition to the national pipeline is another brand debut, this time for Ruby Hotels. Ruby Molly will be built in the centre of the Irish capital with an opening scheduled for Q1 2024. The newbuild will comprise 272 rooms and over 500 sq m for a bar, café, and lounge on the ground floor, which is open to both guests and the public.