Belfast Air BnB uses TikTok to showcase the best of the city and beyond

Over the years, when tourists think of Belfast or Northern Ireland, they unfortunately regularly think of bombs and bullets, but one man is on a mission to change that, through the power of social media.

Dave Cordner, owner and founder of Belfast Central Apartments, not only offers practical and beautifully decorated apartments for tourists, he champions the city and all that is good about it.

Having helped his parents as a young man manage their vacation rentals, Dave admits he got the buzz for all things travel and tourism and after ten years of working in mental health he knew the path he wanted to take.

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“My mum and dad had a few places at the time where nobody really came to Belfast,” Dave said.

“So when they were going on vacation I was cleaning and meeting the guests and kind of got the buzz going from there. In 2014 I bought my first property and in 2015 I got the second, then I started managing other people’s properties in 2016 and that’s when I started the business, Central Belfast Apartments.”

In just over six years Dave has grown the business from a one person team to a thriving business with a portfolio of 50 properties, providing luxury, affordable and serviced holiday apartments across Belfast, for short and long term stays.

Dave explained where his passion for promoting all things positive about Belfast came from.

“I’m super passionate about Belfast, I grew up in Carrick and always saw Belfast as the big city, the big smoke and loved coming. It always seemed like there was so much more going on there- down to Carrick and it never really left me, that passion only grew stronger.

“Every time I met guests for my mum and dad, people were coming to Belfast and Northern Ireland for the first time and I was so excited and passionate about them coming, I wanted them to have the best moment because we were in the travel and tourism business.

“Belfast and Northern Ireland had such a bad reputation and I just wanted to showcase the city in the best way, make sure people have an amazing time so they go home and tell all their friends and their family ‘My God, we were in Belfast and it was amazing!’

“I just think we have so much to offer here that people still don’t know or understand that.”

As well as promoting his own business, the 37-year-old makes sure to showcase others in the hospitality industry as well and he has had great success using social media platforms to do this, especially TikTok. .

“It’s really exciting for us. So obviously with pictures of our apartments you would think it’s geared more towards a platform like Instagram and we’ve been on that and shared things there- down.

“But I know the general direction of social media is video and I’m always one to step out of my comfort zone. I know videos are more engaging than just photos, so we started embracing TikTok probably since the start of the pandemic.

“I was also on the north coast and showed all the things we can do there and did the best things in Belfast that you can see and do and it was very well received and I love it do it.

“Especially going out and getting around bars and restaurants, it’s just exciting and the organic reach you can get on sites like TikTok versus other social media sites is just amazing.

“I think it’s the platform that’s going to be number one in a few years, I think it’s going to overtake Facebook and Instagram and it’s competing with YouTube, so I wanted us to be there.”

The company’s TikTok account has grown to over 12,000 followers in a short time and Dave believes the platform is the future.

“Honestly a year ago I had no idea what it was, I thought it was just people doing fun dances, but it’s not, it’s a Really powerful algorithm. The more stuff you watch, the more it gives you what you want.

“So even though TikTok viewers may not be the people we want to come and stay in our apartments because they’re too young, but they will be ten years from now, so if we can get that brand recognition and the maintain there, then they are the customers and guests of the future.”

In addition to showcasing Belfast on social media, the company has also launched its own podcast, ‘Our Belfast’, which again explores the city through the eyes of well-known faces.

He explained: “‘Our Belfast’ was a way for me to present Belfast again. People watching it from the outside might think the guests are the subject, but the subject of every episode is Belfast and watching it from through well-known personalities’ points of view.

“So we had Michael Deane and he’s someone who’s been a mainstay in Belfast for years and years and I really wanted to get his perspective because he’s been on the scene much longer than I have.

“He talks about how he remembers the bombs going off and the broken glass in his restaurant and when you look at it now it’s a much more vibrant city and it has a lot more competition.

“It’s a positive and upbeat discussion about Belfast and how far we’ve come and where we’re going.”

The company was recently awarded ‘Best Serviced Apartment Operator 1-50 Units’ at The Serviced Apartment Awards 2022 and was the only company in Northern Ireland to be named the winner.

Commenting on why they won, the judges said, “Here’s a team that sparkles with innovative ideas, from their own podcast and knowledge-sharing videos, to the effective deployment of Tiktok.

“A truly impressive effort that has generated a great return in terms of direct and repeat business, and a strong online reputation. Forward-facing interactions that ensure the guest feels welcome, ready for their stay, and that all issues are resolved based on feedback.”

Dave added: “Being recognized at the Serviced Apartment Awards internationally is a tremendous achievement for the business, and it’s a real testament to how our team has embraced the changes that have been introduced and how our investment in the business is paying off.”

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