Dublin hotels set for major growth

The sector is betting that a €1m marketing campaign will lure in even more visitors

The former Findlater House office block on O’Connell Street is being converted into a 198-bedroom Holiday Inn Express hotel. It was bought in 2013 for €6.2m by the London-based Seraphine Hotel Group. The 1970s building was previously sold to developer Garret Kelleher in 2005 for more than €30m. Anglo Irish Bank provided funding, and the loan was subsequently transferred to Nama. Eircom occupied the block for many years. photograph: aidan crawley

The former Findlater House office block on O’Connell Street is being converted into a 198-bedroom Holiday Inn Express hotel. It was bought in 2013 for €6.2m by the London-based Seraphine Hotel Group. The 1970s building was previously sold to developer Garret Kelleher in 2005 for more than €30m. Anglo Irish Bank provided funding, and the loan was subsequently transferred to Nama. Eircom occupied the block for many years. photograph: aidan crawley

 

It’s shaping up to be a record year for tourism, as the Central Statistics Office released visitor numbers for the first nine months showing an increase of 12.5 per cent – and the influential Lonely Planet Guide recently named Dublin as one of the top cities in the world to visit in 2016.

After seven long hard years, the stars are coming into alignment for Dublin to take its place among the most sought- after world cities to visit. Business and tourism expectations are at the highest in years. In order to accommodate the increases, more hotel rooms will be required.

“The value of hotels is beginning to recover, but it is still cheaper to buy distressed properties than to start a new build,” said Tim Fenn, chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation. “The recovery is happening faster than anyone expected,” he added, “and there are signs of domestic companies spending more in the hotel sector too.”

The Minister for Transport and Tourism, Paschal Donohoe, two weeks ago announced the new marketing campaign for Dublin with €1 million for the first phase. The campaign, “Dublin – A Breath of Fresh Air”, is also funded by the four local authorities and a collection of private sector partners.

Orla Carroll of Fáilte Ireland said at the launch that if city is to grow as a tourist magnet, “accommodation in Dublin must be increased substantially. A change in public policy to aid more accommodations coming on-stream may be a necessary avenue for exploration.”

Dublin Airport has seen growth of 15 per cent so far this year – an additional 2.5 million passengers. At the launch of the additional Aer Lingus Transatlantic services, Willie Walsh of IAG said: “With these new services, Dublin Airport will climb into the top five hub airports in Europe.”

Transatlantic traffic to Dublin is up 18 per cent this year on the back of a stronger dollar.

There are existing planning permissions in and around the airport for an additional 800 rooms. Included are an extension to Clayton Dublin Airport, the Radisson Blu and 325-bedroom new build at Clonshaugh.

The Crowe Horwath 20th Edition of the Annual Ireland Hotel Industry Survey shows that while year-on-year performance in 2014 shows positive growth, Irish hotels are still 16 per cent behind the peak levels achieved pre-recession.

This illustrates that Irish hotels continue to offer excellent value for money in an international context and also for the domestic market.

Occupancy figures for hotels in Dublin for January to August this year are 74 per cent.

Sam Johnston of Fáilte Ireland Dublin Convention Bureau said: “We have seen growth year on year of around 6 per cent. Forward convention business is running at an increase of 6 to 8 per cent over the next few years. “

Fáilte Ireland is currently wrapping up a study through Fitzpatrick Associates Economic Consultants, Dublin Accommodation Study Stock Analysis 2015-2020, which will be available at the end of November.

Current planning applications for new hotels and additional rooms to existing properties will increase the room count by almost 2,000. The O’Connell Street area is due to have four new hotels with more than 500 rooms. They are the 198-bed Holiday Inn Express; a 107-bed property on Moore Lane; a budget boutique hotel behind Clerys at Sackville Place; and a 33-bed at the former Guiney’s shop in Talbot Street. The Gresham Hotel will soon be for sale through Nama, with the potential to upgrade the landmark property into to a five-star luxury hotel.