By Michael McHugh, PA
Hotel occupancy rates improved significantly in Northern Ireland as visitors from the Republic flocked to beauty spots.
More than half of the rooms were sold in August as the tourism sector restarted following the lengthy coronavirus lockdown.
Co Fermanagh, the north coast and the Mournes were popular destinations.
Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault said the average room rate last month was £82.
She said: “An influx of visitors from the south of Ireland has been a great boost to tourism and hotels have certainly benefited.
“Bookings increased three-fold in August 2020 compared to the same month last year.
“September has shown a similar pattern with almost double the number of bookings seen in 2019.
“Hotels are making the best of the season and are continuing to avail of furlough and other supports to improve their chances of survival.”
Hotels were permitted to re-open on July 3 2020 with over 85% of the market now trading.
Occupancy figures for August give an overall occupancy figure of 57%.
Occupancy in July was 25%.
Ms Gault added: “Without a doubt, there was a certain amount of trepidation about opening with concerns about safe trading, the viability of the market and a question mark over sustainability.
“However, as the summer has progressed, things have settled down with more hotel rooms coming on stream and ‘staycations’ increasing.
“Domestic trade has been strong with rural destinations such as Fermanagh, the North Coast and the Mournes proving very popular.
“This trend extends beyond hotels with other accommodation providers, in particular self-catering, reporting a very good August.”
She said recent measures introduced in the Republic of Ireland and in council areas in Northern Ireland are of “real concern”.
“The sector is keen to trade responsibly but uncertainty about regulations and travel dent consumer confidence and will undoubtedly have a significant impact on trading in the coming weeks.”Hotel occupancy rates ‘improved significantly in August’