Staycity, the Dublin-headquartered European aparthotel group, has marked 20 years in business. It has been a phenomenal business story as it has grown over the last two decades from offering one apartment in Dublin to 5,300 at 32 aparthotels in 14 cities in Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Last year, it generated sales of €230 million and this year it expects to reach €250 million. 

Sitting down with its chief executive and co-founder Tom Walsh is an engaging experience as he openly shares the challenges he has faced in getting the business there, from surviving the financial crisis to coming through the pandemic. Staycity also has a bespoke premium brand of studio and one-bed aparthotel rooms called Wilde The focus of Walsh’s insights is, however, outward-looking as he talks about how Staycity grew from scratch into a thriving European business managing hundreds of thousands of people a year. 

On March 12, Walsh will share these lessons with guests at a breakfast briefing hosted by Robert Whelan of Rockwell Financial in partnership with The Currency. A limited number of tickets are still available here. Walsh will not only share insights into his journey but also answer questions from fellow entrepreneurs attending the event at 1 Windmill Lane, Dublin 2. 

A desire for business

The idea for Staycity came to Tom Walsh when he bought a recording studio with his wife in Temple Bar and turned it into apartments. “It was a recording studio that had gone out of business but it was where U2 recorded a couple of their songs, including ‘Desire’.” 

Walsh converted the studio into an apartment where he lived happily for a few years. “When we started to think about kids we moved to another home, but we didn’t want to sell the apartment because of the U2 connection,” Walsh said. He asked his brother Gerard, who was in Trinity College at the time, if he could set up a website to rent out his apartment. Just like that, what would become Staycity had started.

“It’s about setting standards. It is about really good communication and making sure that everybody you hire knows that we just don’t want to be good or even very good. We want to deliver a stupendously good guest experience. To do that means thinking about everything from the minute the guest walks in the door. We want them to have a great stay and want them to come back. I don’t want to claim that we’re perfect, because we’re not. But we’re definitely a continuously improving organisation.

“We’ve started to deploy AI in our call centre. We’re taking 10,000 bookings every week but we probably have 20,000 or 30,000 queries. If you listed all our queries, many of them are exactly the same. There are things that can easily be automated, so it’s not a threat to jobs because those types of jobs are actually very hard to keep filled, because it is so repetitive. If you take away the repetitive jobs, it means customers get faster and more consistent replies, while people have more interesting work.”

Sponsoring the Dubs

Staycity became sponsor of all four Dublin GAA codes in November last year. Tom Walsh’s parents are not from Dublin so he didn’t grow up supporting the Dubs, but that didn’t stop him backing it. “Some of the gang working here are huge Dublin supporters,” he said. “When the opportunity came up to support the GAA, which is in every little parish in the country and doing such amazing things for communities while being an amateur sport, we jumped in and went for it.” 

Walsh said he felt lucky to be able to support Dublin as the sponsorship had meant he now followed every game. “It is fantastic in terms of knitting us into the community in Dublin and supporting an incredible institution in Ireland, which is helping men and women and bringing young boys and girls along and up and through the ranks.”

Building a big Irish company

“When I was a kid, there were just a few people who were significant Irish businessmen that you could read about in newspapers. They were Tony Ryan, Tony O’Reilly, Michael Smurfit and Dermot Desmond. They grew big, big Irish businesses. I’ve always wanted to grow a big, big Irish business and let everything else look after itself. It’s what inspires me and it is what I still want to do. People ask what’s next and I tell them that I would like to grow a big, big Irish business that goes on long after me.” 

The Currency is partnering with Rockwell Financial to host the Rockwell Insights Series “From Local to Global: Growing your Business”. Tom Walsh will share firsthand insights into Staycity’s strategies for scaling internationally and offer practical advice that you can apply to your own business. Click here to attend.