by Lisa A. Grimaldi | December 01, 2013
Following several years of instability in the Irish economy, the country and its hospitality community appear to be back on track. New hotels are opening, and some classic properties are getting long-awaited renovations and upgrades.

At the same time, the Irish government -- looking to attract more international meetings -- has extended the special 9 percent VAT rate on hotels, venues and restaurants for meetings (the normal rate is 13 percent). In addition, the government will eliminate the country's air travel tax (about US$4.20 per person) for all passengers as of April 2014.

Dublin update
The Burlington has been reflagged as the DoubleTree by Hilton Dublin-Burlington Road. The 501-room property will undergo a $22 million upgrade, slated for completion in spring 2014. The hotel has 18 meeting rooms and 23,000 square feet of event space.

The 200-room Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, County Wicklow, near Dublin, was sold to Brehon Capital Partners in March. The property, which had been Ritz-Carlton's only presence in Ireland, is now the luxury Powers­court Hotel Resort & Spa and a member of Marriott International's Autograph Collection. The Powerscourt has two golf courses, a spa and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 187-room Marker Hotel Dublin debuted earlier this year. The boutique property has nine meeting rooms, a rooftop lounge and garden, and a spa.

The Westin Dublin has completed a $6 million refurbishment of its guest rooms. The 163-room property also features six meeting rooms.

The 265-room Shelbourne Dublin, a Renaissance Hotel, has added a spa with six treatment rooms.

Belfast update
The Belfast Waterfront Hall convention center is planning a $40 million expansion. The facility, which currently has an auditorium that seats up to 2,223 delegates, a "studio" that accommodates up to 380 attendees, and 14 meeting rooms, will add 43,000 square feet of flexible exhibit, banqueting and prefunction space.

The 272-room Europa Hotel Belfast has completed a refurbishment. The historic property features a ballroom, nine meeting rooms and its own exhibition center.