Few businesses just three years old already employ over 50 people and expect turnover next year to top £4m. But that is the achievement of one of Belfast's more recent arrivals, Acityabode.
Acityabode originated in Cardiff in June 2006 and expanded to take on its second major investment in Belfast in Easter this year.
There are now 12 staff in the Belfast office on the Newtownards Road which will relocate to the Titanic Quarter next year.
Aparthotels — otherwise referred to as serviced apartments — have become increasingly popular with business travellers in recent times. They offer the same quality as good hotels, but at lower cost and with more freedom and flexibility. With the economic downturn, demand has increased further.
But, Acityabode founder and managing director Paul Gazzard noticed serviced apartments often lay empty at weekends. While some leisure travellers did use aparthotels, usually this was because “they stumbled across them”, as Paul puts it.
Paul, a marketing and brand specialist, realised that to spread demand for aparthotels to other client niches and across more days of the week, the sector needed the skills of someone exactly like him.
“We see ourselves as competing with the big hospitality players, against hotels like the Hilton and Malmaison and other providers that offer the same type of service as we do,” says Paul.
Belfast is the business' head office for expanding across Ireland. Acityabode has ambitious plans in future months to open in more cities, including Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Belfast launch coincided with the collapse in property values, but this has helped, rather than hindered the company.
Some of the aparthotels are owned by the company and others leased from it. Further properties will be taken on in the coming months, under arrangements with developers who are looking for different ways to offload properties in a difficult marketplace.
Meanwhile, demand from both corporates and leisure travellers has increased as the recession forces both types of client to |cut costs.
As has been the way with every recession — bad times can offer good opportunities.
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