Occupancy and room rates at Irish hotels have returned to pre-crash levels, according to the latest annual Hotel Survey from Crowe Horwath.

The study is based on the 2016 accounts of Irish hotels and finds that average room rates reached €104.11 per night last year - an almost €12 increase on the 2015 figure.

The Dublin market was by far the most expensive, with an average rate of €128.27 per night - which is almost €8 more than the average charged in 2006. 

"We've had full recovery right across the board for both Dublin hotels and hotels in regional Ireland," said Aiden Murphy, partner at Crowe Horwath. "To put that in context occupancy at Dublin hotels are now at 82% and that would be the highest of all similar European cities. For regional Ireland occupancy levels are at an all time high of just under 70%."

Mr Murphy said that the combined impact of high occupancy levels and higher room rates means that, year-on-year, profits at the country's hotels are up 21% with Dublin and the south-west enjoying the highest increases.

But while the industry is seeing an improved performance across the country, some are doing better than others. While Dublin is ahead of its boom-time rates, average prices across the rest of the country remain below €100, with hotels on the western seaboard the least expensive at an average of under €80 per night. 

"There's probably two reasons driving that," said Mr Murphy. "There's probably less of a mix in terms of five star hotels in the west of Ireland compared to other regions; also the west of Ireland is more reliant on the domestic leisure market, which is more flexible in terms of its travel plans and can change those according to cost and price."

Regardless, the country's hotels was sitting on an upward curve in 2016 - and that is likely to have continued into this year.

Mr Murphy said that a sentiment survey conducted amongst hotel owners earlier this year revealed an expectation of further price rises - though perhaps at a slower rate than before.

Of course as positive this may be for hotels, it could be bad news for the country as a whole as accomodation prices have a major impact on competitiveness, particularly in the context of tourism.

The Crowe Horwath report also shows that there are many upward pressures on Irish hotels - with payroll costs likely to rise and more being given away in commission to increasingly popular online booking sites.

"In 2014 and 2015, while prices were rising, sterling was increasing against the euro," Mr Murphy said. "But in the last 12 months room prices in Dublin, for instance, are up 15%, sterling is down 14%, so room prices look as if they're up 30% if you're a UK visitor to Ireland."

This only adds to the need for hotels to keep competitiveness in mind - though they are also facing increased competition for certain strands of business. For example, the Crowe Horwath report shows that wedding bookings are down in recent months - as couples increasingly turn to non-traditional venues for their big day.

One thing that might help to reduce the cost of a hotel bed is the addition of new capacity - and Mr Murphy says that the market is finally at a point where new builds are viable. The next step is finding the money to make that happen.

"What we have in 2016 for the first time is profit levels that justify new build hotels in Dublin and over the course of the year we've seen probably 1,800 rooms commence construction in the Dublin market," he said. "We require 5,000 rooms over the next four years so one third of the required capacity is now funded and moving forward.

"It's important we can source the funding to deliver the full 5,000 rooms and the current profit levels should support that."