Growing developer wants to open Liverpool’s first five-star hotel

The boss of a growing hotel development company has said he hopes to build Liverpool’s first five-star venue – after the “absolutely breathtaking” post-pandemic performance of his current venues.

Town Hotels recently opened the first hotel in the Baltic Triangle – and its portfolio includes Duke Street Boutique Hotel, York Street Studios and Chavasse Apartments in the city centre.

Duncan Stewart, the company’s director of hotel operations, spoke to BusinessLive about the pandemic, Liverpool’s development scene – and the future of the business.

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According to Mr Stewart, that future includes the goal of opening the city’s first five-star hotel – an ambition slowed by the pandemic but still very much alive.

No announcement will be made just yet, but he said: “We had 18 months where every penny had to be spent on the two builds, which were Duke Street and the Baltic.

“In a perfect world, we would have moved on straight away.

“But unfortunately we have to reset where we look at our finances, rebuild a business where it was in 2019. And that will come for the future.”

Liverpool’s wait for a five-star hotel has been a long one. More recently, in 2016, Principal Hayley Group revealed plans to open one inside the Martins Bank Building on Water Street – but that site is now set to become a flexible workspace.

Mr Stewart said that despite the setbacks of the pandemic, the recovery in bookings had been “absolutely stunning”.

“I try not to mention what’s happened in the last 18 months, but it obviously set us back a lot,” he said.

Steve Rotheram outside the Baltic Hotel with Duncan Stewart and Baltic Hotel Manager Vicki Hanlon

“We still have some hurdles to jump through, but the response to our bookings has been great. August has been an absolutely beautiful month.

“I was maybe a little pessimistic when I’m normally very optimistic, but the rates got to where I expected them to be.”

Hotelier Mr Stewart, who also ran Aintree Racecourse, added: “The industry says we’re not going to reset until 2024. Well we’re doing pretty well at the moment even with a lack of international travel.

“So when that happens, I think the boost will be a bit earlier than 2024.

“I am certainly less pessimistic than some of the reports I have read in recent weeks.

“I have great confidence in my hotels and what we do. I think we are lucky – we have two new hotels that opened just after Covid.

“We managed to open them with everything we wanted to do with them, without compromise.”

Since launching its first phase in July with 36 rooms, the £7million Baltic Hotel has been well received by the city. The next phase will see 20 more bedrooms and a traditional pub called the Duck and Swagger open on site by Christmas.

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Last month Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram visited the site and said the development would ‘drive more investment and tourism to the area’ which he said was a ‘good thing for the city.

He said at the time: ‘I love when a breath of life is given to an old building and the owners of the Baltic Hotel have done just that, the memories of music and the record players in the rooms give it a truly authentic feel and is another fantastic offer for people visiting Liverpool.

With so much negative headline surrounding the Liverpool development scene in recent years, Mr Stewart said honesty with investors is now more important than ever.

He said: “There’s been so much bad press about split selling and how people have invested their savings in hotels and rooms, and they haven’t gotten back because they’ve been told. promised 10% or 12%.

“We went back to [our investors] and said, ‘look, guys, this is where we are right now’.

“We reach out to them regularly, telling them where we stand and what we’re giving them in return.

“We invite everyone to join us. We are lucky, we have very wealthy individuals who have invested their own personal money – so we don’t have a lot of individuals.

“But where we have – including in the Baltic – we have kept them up to date with the information, and we have invited them. We see them every week and give them our numbers, which is important. I think.

“The most important thing for us is honesty, being transparent about our business and telling them where we stand.”

He said it had to do with the decision not to pursue plans for the five-star hotel – yet.

“Are we going to go to another hotel without stabilizing activity? The answer is no, because that would be silly.

“So let’s reset, stabilize where we are, and then go from there.

“We are very happy with our investors. I hope they would say the same about our businesses.”

Liverpool city skyline from the INNSIDE hotel.  Photo by Colin Lane
Liverpool city skyline from the INNSIDE hotel.

Mr Stewart said that apart from potential five-star hotel projects in Liverpool, the company was looking to double the city and not expand elsewhere.

He said: “I think from past experience, where people have expanded their business beyond the city they know, it’s risky right now.

“I think the hotel market is now open to investment from people who come to buy them overseas. And I think there are good properties to buy.

“We will definitely stay where we are for now. Let’s finish the Baltic and stabilize our business – and then, when we feel strong enough, we will expand accordingly.

“But we’re not going to focus on new construction when we haven’t finished what we already have.

“We’re not going to spread ourselves too thin. We’re a small team, we want to do it right, we want to do it the right way. And I’ll build another hotel when I finish what I have now.”

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