Interview With Our Founder
Author: iStay 12th July 2021
What was the motive behind setting up iStay Liverpool?
I have worked primarily in property. I was an estate agent for years – specialising in selling and letting. I got involved with short stay accommodation about two years ago.
The first property we acquired was on Rodney Street, a big Georgian building, which at the time was very much a student property. The student accommodation market was changing when we took on this site – many students were opting to stay in new, high-rise apartment developments, so an older building like this wasn’t appealing to that market, but I had a vision for a different market.
Liverpool has always been one of the most popular UK locations for group travel. This includes hen and stag parties, groups of girls and lads who want to come and party.
When I realised how much potential there was, I looked around for properties that I could potentially utilise in a different way. If you’re going to visit a city with six friends and you’re all going to go in your own hotel room – where are you going to get together for a drink once the bars shut?
At the time [when I was starting] there were a few companies doing [group stays] including the likes of EPIC. I began to look at how those group stays book and what they come into the city for.
I started with the property on Rodney Street. After that proved successful I acquired further properties on Knight Street, Duke Street, Water Street and Temple Court.
iStay has large apartment blocks which have everything needed for a group stay. They all have spacious areas where everyone can get together and have a party.
But the locations are key as well. Our Water Street building is right by Mowgli and the other excellent restaurants along Castle Street. Temple Court is right in the middle of the Victoria Street/ Mathew Street district. Everything is on the guest’s doorstep.
What are the main differences between a typical hotel and iStay’s offering?
If you’re a couple visiting Liverpool with four children it’s going to be difficult in a standard hotel room with a double bed and a couple of camp beds. Also, if people are coming for five days [and staying in a hotel] – they’re stuck in one room.
With our serviced accommodation, we can offer full kitchens, bathrooms and room to manoeuvre. Essentially, it’s a space away from home that you can use as a base to explore the city from. It gives you that flexibility.
As a city we have so many attractions, be that sport, the music scene, our architecture – there’s so much we have to offer visitors. I sometimes feel like we don’t realise what we’ve got on our doorstep. When you have these groups relaying positive sentiments back to you when they’re checking out it’s a fantastic feeling.
But it’s not just tourists who make use of the apartments, is it?
Absolutely not. We get local hen and stag parties as well as christenings and gender reveals. We even had a group of mums hire an apartment for a kid’s sleepover – complete with wigwams and everything!
How important will tourism be to Liverpool’s economic recovery post-lockdown?
Very. We’re a key element of Liverpool’s economy. Our customers are not just spending money with us but at restaurants and bars across the city centre. That money is going into the wider hospitality economy. As we get more bookings in, that’s good news for the shops, bars and restaurants.
Our guests aren’t coming to just sit in the apartment all day, they’re going out to see the city and spend money.
Before the Covid pandemic we had people coming from the likes of China, Dubai, and the USA. You might be surprised by the pull that Liverpool has, but we are a worldwide city and people are keen to see what we’ve got to offer.
When will iStay Liverpool reopen its properties?
17 May is the date we are working to. The bookings that have come in over recent weeks have been tremendous because there has been more certainty.
People have really got a sense that [an end to restrictions] is really going to happen. Over the last week and a half we’ve had more than £100,000 worth of bookings – just for the months of June and July.
Do you have plans to launch more venues in the future?
I’m opening a couple of bars. Our new building on Bold Street has got a massive roof space. I was standing up there recently thinking of the rooftop bars in London and how we could recreate it here in Liverpool. So we’re going to open a new rooftop bar called ‘Lounge 21′. I’m also in legal talks now to open a new bar right under our hotel on Temple Court.
We’ve also got some new apart hotels coming up including 7 Water Street, which is going to be 10 apartments with amazing views of the Royal Liver Building. The priority for the rest of this year is not to take a step back, which you might expect post pandemic, but to keep pushing forward.