City centre hotels enjoy their best year since boom
SUMMER sunshine and the Gathering helped lift Dublin's hotel trade to its best season since the economy went into a tailspin in 2007, according to Pat McCann, the chief of the country's biggest hotel group.
That uplift in customers has seen job numbers at Mr McCann's 30-strong Dalata hotel group increase by 600 since the bottom of the market in 2010.
This year, the summer heatwave had been a boon to hoteliers, especially in the capital, but the rest of the country, particularly urban areas, have also fared well.
"It's the best year since 2007," he told the Irish Independent. "That's even allowing for the fact that last year business in Dublin was helped by the Tall Ships Race and the Navy v Notre Dame US college football game held in the city."
The Government's 'Gathering' tourism initiative also propelled business this year, and Mr McCann said forward demand for 2014 was "very encouraging". Demand from corporate clients, as a result of events such as conferences, has also improved.
Mr McCann said the good weather had undoubtedly helped hotels around the country, especially those in coastal areas, but that some properties in regions such as the midlands probably still struggled a bit.
The weather also had the effect of ensuring hotels were busy and room rates were higher, but kept visitors out of the hotels during the day, impacting food and beverage sales, he said. Room rates in Dublin are now on average just 10-15pc off their peak during the boom, Mr McCann added.
The Dalata group has a stable of 30 hotels, all but one of them in Ireland. It manages 13 properties on behalf of receivers, five under contract with hotel owners and the remainder it owns and operates under the Maldron brand.
Since 2010, Dalata has hired an extra 21 people to work in its central office, bringing the total to 30, while Mr McCann said that on a like-for-like basis, the company had about 3,500 people on its payroll now – 600 more than it did in 2010, which he described as a terrible year for the trade. Dalata was founded in 2007. Mr McCann invested €1m of his own money in the venture, in which he has a 13pc stake.
A team of Dalata executives sounded out interest in London among potential investors last May as the group considers making acquisitions of additional properties here.
There's been strong interest from international investors in buying key Irish hotel properties in the past couple of years.
Mr McCann said those talks in London had gone well and that there was significant interest in investing in Ireland.
Mr McCann said the reduced 9pc VAT rate for the sector had been of significant benefit in terms of making it much more competitive for UK and US visitors, and he called on the Government to provide certainty in the next Budget that the rate would be maintained at that level for a longer period.