Tom Smyth is the Managing Director of Dream Luxury Serviced Apartments, the fastest-growing serviced apartment offering in the UK.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Dream Apartments and your aspirations over the coming years…
I am Tom Smyth, Belfast born and bred with an amazing wife, Dolores, and two fantastic daughters – Farrah and Rheanna – my family is most definitely my life.
I also a very focused businessman and am very proud of all we have achieved at Dream Luxury Serviced Apartments since setting up in 2017.
I believe that mindset is the fundamental secret to my success.
I get up at 4am every day, train twice and do my goal statements before most people have even thought about waking up.
I believe if you have a strong mindset, you can achieve and overcome anything that life throws at you and it’s something I instil in my family and fantastic team.
We began with 31 apartments in Belfast, 33 in Liverpool and six in Newcastle with six staff.
Today we have become the become fastest growing accommodation supplier in the UK, currently employing over 200 people and operating more than 400 properties worldwide from Belfast, Liverpool, London, Newcastle, as well as internationally in Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Sao Paulo to name but a few.
We have recently announced a six-figure investment program with plans to expand into a further 10 cities Europe-wide by 2022, creating over 300 jobs across 600 new apartments.
We in the midst of new builds and deals in major cities in the UK including Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool, Birmingham, Middleborough, Dublin, Leeds, York, Cork, London and Berlin.
We also operate the Dream Pods, a serviced apartment development in Belfast, which were the first of their kind in Northern Ireland offering full housekeeping and concierge services, sleek and minimalist décor and quirky design features such as bunk beds, clever storage facilities and state-of-the-art media. We are now also about to launch the same concept in Liverpool and Sheffield.
At the 2019 World Travel Awards, Dream Apartments Belfast was awarded the title of ‘Northern Ireland’s Leading Serviced Apartments’ for the third consecutive year and this new development in the company’s portfolio is a welcome addition to both the local long-term business travellers and short-break tourism markets.
What is your vision for the future of hospitality in Northern Ireland within your sector?
I strongly believe that the serviced apartment industry is the absolute future of global travel.
It will be undoubtedly be the accommodation provider of choice right now and going forward.
Hotels will very sadly, suffer and have causalities.
With our ability to offer a non-contact stay, we are set to flourish. We can provide self-isolation from the moment the guest arrives at our properties.
This pandemic has caused a national health crisis, but it is also an economic crisis. But we cannot let that stop our growth as a business and in our industry.
I encourage all other business leaders to continue do all we can in our power to ensure our workforce, and indeed the wider business world, remains as positive as it can to not only survive but to thrive.
The simple truth is, life still needs to go on.
We cannot let this virus beat and destroy us. We can now see a glimmer of hope at the end if the tunnel. As with everything there is good and bad and the good I believe is to come – the vaccine is just days away and that will bring a new wave of positivity that everybody so desperately needs.
We cannot let the daily news consume us.
In fact, I make a purpose of not watching the news I haven’t watched it in three years. I am advised by my team on Government guidelines and any aspects that affects our sector. I choose not to have my mindset affected by outside influences.
I stay laser focussed on positivity and growth.
Businesses, like ours, need to do all they can to protect their workforce and customers against the risks of the virus – so that means carrying out the risk assessments, ensuring all PPE is in place, ensure all sanitising and deep cleans happen on a regular basis, offer hand sanitiser to guests, promote social distancing etc.
But it also means planning for a buoyant future.
Business still needs to happen; the economy needs us all to support it more than ever.
That means supporting our local businesses and their workforce and do all we can to keep spirits up.
That means visiting your local coffee shop, restaurant, hotel, clothes store. Spend our hard-earned money supporting the local economy that needs us all now more than ever.
It means, saying a kind word to the staff member who served you. Expressing your thanks for their service.
I tell my team every single day how amazing they are, I practice an attitude of gratitude, I work on the mindset of myself and staff – we know we will get through this together and come our stronger on the other side. I tell to focus on all that we do have, not what we don’t, and aim for what we want, not what we don’t want. Simple.
As we exit this pandemic, what are your thoughts about the state of business travel and what hurdles do you see we will have to face over the coming few years.
Business travel will always have its place. For our economies to survive, we need people to visit other countries and nations to share ideas, carry out business deals and to invest in them.
It is going through tough times, but I am confident that it will bounce back. Serviced accommodation is the future and we have to plan for that growth.
The government needs to continue to support the hospitality and travel industries where it can. Any further restrictions need to be mindful of how this will impact business.
They need to step up and put new measures in place that help businesses flourish but under safe guidelines.
The winter months will undoubtedly be a challenge for a lot of businesses – but the sun will rise again – it is all about mindset.
Where are the new opportunities going to come from and how do you see our industry readying itself for them.
We believe the staycation, family, leisure market is the future. The corporate market and our ability to provide accommodation in prime locations in cities across the world, close to the central business districts, airports, main arterial routes and city centres has allowed us to continue to grow quickly.
Business travel is going to be more selective – I think that longer-term stays will become the norm with travellers being more discerning about where they stay – our luxury, home-from-home offering at affordable prices means that we will remain the leader in this market.
We evolved very quickly, early on in the pandemic. We have keyless check-ins, partnered with other hospitality offerings in each city for excellent deals in eateries and tourism outlets as well as offering luxury, high-end safe accommodation.
We are staying focused on these growth plans and not being deterred. We are committed to becoming a serious global player in the travel market with an excellent reputation for providing accommodation to both corporate and leisure clients.
What do you think the NI Executive need to do to get business ready for the world post-pandemic?
I think they need to give better, clearer guidelines and more notice for restriction imposing and lifting, so we can all plan ahead and prepare our staff etc. The guidelines need to be business-friendly as well as protect the public. Full lockdowns are not the answer, as they are crippling the economy – the Executive need a clear roadmap out of this and a robust recovery plan for the next few years that will support and attract investment and trade. We should also look at best-practice from other countries – such as Dubai and Sweden.
Crystal ball – what’s your prediction for the next 3 – 6 months?
This has been the worst thing that has happened since the Second World War, both in terms of health and the economy.
In economic terms, after any downturn comes a massive boom – and I am planning for that period of huge prosperity.
As the vaccine starts to filter through each age group, the next 3-6 months will see travellers being cautious but still very much wanting to get away on city breaks and further afield.
As confidence grows, as will bookings and demand, and by Spring next year, I believe that we will once again see a buoyant travel and leisure market with people wanting to once again celebrate life.
We need to live and beat the virus – we cannot let the virus beat us – a situation either controls us or we control it – so let’s control it.
Right now, each of us needs to focus on doing what WE can do to keep ourselves, families, customers and staff safe and positive.
We are an ambitious nation and I am fully confident that we can get through this and emerge stronger than ever.