That point has been highlighted by the problems encountered by easyHotel in obtaining permission to open its new hotel on Howard Street in Belfast, Andrea McIlroy-Rose of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said.
Earlier this week, the BBC reported that a number of the rooms in the new hotel do not meet room size requirements stipulated in legislation in Northern Ireland and that the certification easyHotel needs to obtain from Tourism Northern Ireland to open for business is in doubt as a result.
Belfast-based McIlroy-Rose, who specialises in retail, investment and development work and is part of the Pinsent Masons’ specialist hotels team, said: "One of the major dividends for Northern Ireland since the peace agreement in 1998 is the emergence of the region’s tourist business – this has been helped by high-profile initiatives, such as the development of Titanic tourism, the filming of scenes from the popular TV series Game of Thrones, and the hosting of stages from the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's classic events."
"These initiatives have fuelled demand for beds – the results of a recently published survey by ASM Chartered Accountants found that there were approximately 2.26 million room nights sold in Northern Ireland in 2017, which represented a new record. The market has responded to this demand with new developments. This includes the opening of the AC Marriott in Belfast Harbour, a project we advised on, the newly opened Grand Central Hotel and the easyHotel development on Howard Street," she said.
McIlroy-Rose said it is important that hotel businesses considering new developments in Northern Ireland familiarise themselves with local regulations.
"Northern Ireland is a separate legal jurisdiction," she said. "It is important that hotels recognise the particular regulatory requirements they may be subject to and obtain specialist legal advice."
Under the Tourism (NI) Order 1992 it is an offence to open a tourism establishment without a certificate. Article 12(5) of the Order provides the Northern Irish government with the power to set regulations for minimum standards to be met. The Categories of Tourist Establishment (Statutory Criteria) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992 set minimum sizes that rooms in tourist establishments must meet – double bedrooms in hotels must be at least 13 square metres in size, and single rooms 7.5 sq m, for example.
According to article 13(5) of the Order, if, on inspection, the inspector is satisfied that the criteria have been met, he/she will issue a certificate.