The Ascott Limited’s co-living brand lyf is eyeing its third location in Australia, with a new property in Sydney expected to be announced soon.

Almost a year on from the opening of its first Australian property in Melbourne’s trendy inner-city suburb of Collingwood, and with another under construction in Bondi Junction, the brand is exploring further opportunities for growth – in dynamic metropolitan neighbourhoods.  

Lyf – pronounced ‘life’ – stands for ‘live your freedom’ and is an accommodation concept targeting next-generation travellers including non-traditional corporates such as digital nomads, start-ups, entrepreneurs and creatives.

With apartments, social spaces, and experiential programs on offer, lyf properties are designed to encourage guests to forge connections and create a strong sense of community.

Earlier this week, Ascott Australia Managing Director, David Mansfield, welcomed over 100 guests to discover the brand at an event at lyf Collingwood Melbourne.

After a soft opening last year, lyf Collinwood is now gaining traction with increased occupancy and plans to open its food and beverage offering later this year.

“Now, we’re fully functioning and we’re seeing good lift in occupancy – we’re shooting around 65-70% and average rates lifted to around about AU$175-$180,” Mansfield told HM exclusively at the Collingwood event.  

“We’re not aiming to be this high-end lifestyle brand. We see a market for affordability for the digital nomad, the person who loves to be intrinsic about their technology and loves to be with people who want to share knowledge in comfortable environment without the price tag of an upscale hotel. We see that being a very niche opportunity for us to evolve this brand.”

A new-build lyf property is currently under construction in Bondi Junction, with plans to open in the third quarter of 2024.  

“We just finished excavation of the site about three weeks ago, so we’re in a construction mode now,” Mansfield said. “We’re pushing for that for quarter three next year, all things going to plan.

“It will be very different [to lyf Collingwood] when it comes to the art, the storyline, the history of the site, the location – we will capitalise on that and make sure that our guests who stay in that neighbourhood understand the journey. We really want them to feel immersed in what they experience in the neighbourhood.”

Mansfield hinted that another Sydney property is in the works and expects to announce that location soon. The brand is also looking to new locations across Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne and Perth – where the energy is right, Mansfield explained.

“The brand is not for every location in the CBD,” he said. “You wouldn’t put lyf in the top end of Collins Street.

“We’re looking at placing our lyf properties in areas where there’s a uniqueness about it; it’s up and coming, it’s dynamic, it’s fresh, it has energy – it’s not stale in approach and positioning. We see Bondi Junction being that very same space. And the other option we have in Sydney is exactly the same scenario.”

Since launching in Singapore in 2019, the lyf network has grown to 22 properties in 18 cities globally, and Ascott expects another 13 to open in the coming years, including seven in 2023, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Xi’an, China; Tokyo, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; Cebu and Manila in The Philippines; and Vienna, Austria. The brand will also debut in Paris, France in 2024.

Ascott’s Australian growth

Ascott is the largest serviced residence provider in Australia with brands such as Quest, Citadines and Oakwood in its portfolio. With the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games on the horizon, the lodging business is eagerly exploring the location for expansion across all its brands.

“We have a great deal of intel there on the customer movements and demand drivers,” Mansfield said.

“We anticipate having other properties there that are not Quest branded; Oakwood, Citadines – we are in discussions about properties for these brands at the moment – and lyf.

“We’re very excited about Brisbane for obvious reasons. We’re very excited about Sydney, especially in Western Sydney with the airport development and the general growth of the western fringe and the regional centres in New South Wales, as well as in Queensland, north of Brisbane. And the same in Melbourne, the Melbourne west area and the regions, the East Gippsland area, we have some announcements to make there for new Quest properties.”

Following the acquisition of Oakwood last year – which currently has two Australian properties in Melbourne and Brisbane – Ascott is eager to grow this serviced apartment brands in CBD areas.

“Our aspiration is to have an Oakwood or Oakwood Premier in every capital city in Australia – either operational, under construction, or signed – by the end of 2030,” Mansfield said.

The lobby at Oakwood Premier Melbourne

“We see a huge opportunity for that to operate in a space that’s not Quest; it’s very different in terms of the dynamics of the rooms available and where those properties are located – Quest is not something we see in the CBD.”

While 2023 will bring a variety of challenges to the hospitality industry, Mansfield is confident that the network will be resilient.

“We’re very confident about quarter one and quarter two this year, the market demand and the performance of our business is very strong, but we’re making the assumption that quarter three and four won’t be that way.,” he said.

“We hope we’re wrong but we’re preparing ourselves for that, if there is a downturn of some sort given the macroeconomics at play and the geopolitical issues that the global world is facing.

“The cost of living, interest rates and how that impacts on home and travel spend is something we’re very we’re weary of. For me, I’m thinking about how I ready the business and our properties to weather whatever it may be. We’re very confident; we got through the pandemic, we didn’t close any Quest properties or any of our Ascott-branded properties, and we did everything we could to keep doors open.

“Whatever happens, we’ve gone through that. Bring it on, we’ll navigate through it.”