NI hospitality sector has ‘potential to create 5,000 jobs’

Hospitality Ulster launched to represent pubs, hotels and restaurants

The hospitality sector could create up to 5,000 additional jobs in Northern Ireland over the next 10 years if it expands its skills base and adopts a more professional approach to business, according to new industry group Hospitality Ulster.

Research commissioned by the group shows one in every 20 jobs in the North are related to the hospitality sector which contributes an annual £1.2 billion to the local economy.

But Hospitality Ulster, which was officially launched today in Belfast by the North's First Minister Peter Robinson and Finance Minister Arlene Foster, believes the local hospitality sector needs to rise to the challenge of creating an across the board, award winning customer experience for both local people and tourists if its future potential is to be realised.

Hospitality Ulster, which has evolved from another industry group; Pubs of Ulster, aims to become the umbrella group for the industry and will represent pubs, hotels and restaurants.


Colin Neill, the body's chief executive, said the hospitality sector continues to be a "key pillar" of the local economy but business environment has been tough in the last few years.

Mr Neill said the sector currently supports around 60,000 total jobs with around 45,000 of these relating specifically to the food and drink element of the sector.

A Hospitality Ulster commissioned report by Oxford Economics shows that the sector’s annual wage bill alone contributes £653.4 million to the local economy.

But Mr Neill said today with the right government support in place and an industry wide commitment to upskilling – this wage bill could deliver much more.

“Despite the loss of jobs during the economic downturn and sluggish growth recently, we now have the opportunity to really improve upon a sector which has so much promise. Weak projected growth over the next decade is growth nonetheless and it is up to us to bring forward a solution to buck the forecast estimates,” he said.

The new industry body believes there is a lot more the North’s Executive could do to stimulate jobs and encourage investment by both local and international operators.

Mr Neill said cutting Tourism Vat, reducing red tape and business rates and examining new licensing reforms would help stimulate the local sector.

The North’s First Minister agrees that the hospitality sector is a “key driver” in the local economy and he acknowledged that it had been “pivotal in reshaping Northern Ireland as a must see destination”.

Peter Robinson said: “The Northern Ireland Executive will continue to work closely with Hospitality Ulster and Tourism NI to ensure that together we build on our growing reputation as an excellent tourism offering. We must continue to invest in our product to remain competitive in the worldwide market place as we strive to rebuild and rebalance our economy.”

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business