Talking business: Tom Smyth, Dream Apartments

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• Can you give us a brief career history and tell us how you came to be working in the serviced apartment sector?
 "I first encountered the serviced apartment sector while I was doing business in Dubai and this is where I fell in love with the concept. Upon my return to Belfast, I noticed that there was an opportunity for serviced apartments to flourish in the Northern Irish tourism scene. I then had the opportunity to partner up with an established serviced apartment provider in Belfast, which expanded my knowledge of the industry. Subsequently, in June 2017 I launched my own brand, Dream Apartments, and I'm incredibly proud of the growth we have experienced in its first year."
• Dream Apartments is going through a growth phase - can you give us some background on how the company started, where you're at in terms of current properties, and your plans for future locations?
"The concept of Dream Apartments was established on June 1st, 2017. We started off with 31 apartments in Belfast, 33 in Liverpool and six in Newcastle. We have now grown to offer 85 apartments in Belfast with an additional 38 in the pipeline for 2018. In Liverpool, we have grown to 49 apartments and are opening an additional 51 in June 2018. And in Newcastle we have now grown to 34 apartments with our recent opening of Aerial House and another addition in Newcastle's Gallowgate opening this October."
"Additionally, we are planning on expanding to Cardiff, London and Dublin this year which we're really excited about. We've also formed a connection with strategic partners who allow us to sell serviced apartments in Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Sao Paulo to our client base."
• What is your split of business v leisure travellers, and average length of stay? And does it vary widely across the portfolio?
"Dream Apartments is primarily targeted towards the corporate and relocation market. Our corporate to leisure ratio is 70 per cent corporate and 30 per cent leisure across all locations, with an average length of 20 days per stay."
• How well established is the serviced apartment sector in Northern Ireland? Who are your main competitors in Belfast and how do you differentiate yourselves from them?
"The serviced apartment industry in Northern Ireland is still in its infancy. We have had challenges with Tourism NI regarding the differentiation between a serviced apartment and self-catering accommodation. Despite this, we have continued to grow our brand and have even won the 2017 World Travel Award for Northern Ireland's Leading Serviced Apartments. In Belfast, there is a limited number of other serviced apartment providers - our main competitors being Cordia Apartments, Giant Serviced Apartments and Belfast Serviced Apartments. Dream Apartments however, are the only ASAP accredited serviced apartments in Belfast, and this is how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors."
• What are your main distribution channels for both leisure and corporate guests, and how do you encourage direct bookings?
"Our main distribution channels are our website, OTAs and DMOs.  We also have a coherent and effective book direct strategy in place which allows us to really drive customer acquisition and retention."
• Where do you see yourself and the company in five years time?
"I see Dream Apartments continuing its expansion and growth over the next five years. We intend to drive our brand and stock firstly across the UK and Europe with plans to also take the Dream Brand to Dubai, which was my original inspiration for Dream Apartments."


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