Cork couple eyes €1.1bn luxury travel market

Cork couple eyes €1.1bn luxury travel market
Ludgate Hub members H&S Ireland Luxury Travel (Naomi and John Sheehy). Picture: Emma Jervis

Luxury travel is a booming market. Fáilte Ireland predicts the global value of this sector will reach €1.1bn by 2022.

A small company in west Cork is catering to this side of the tourism market providing visitors to Ireland with a personalised experience. 

Naomi Sheehy set up Ireland Luxury Travel with her husband, John, in 2016, offering a bespoke service to tourists. For some clients, the trip might be a once or twice in a lifetime experience, she said.

Ms Sheehy, who has worked as a solicitor, said her passion for travel and tourism is in her family — her parents bought a 13th Century Norman castle in the late 1990s, opening it to the public following a complete restoration in 2005.

Having set up in summer 2016, the company moved into the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen in early 2017. 

It was one of the first seed investment companies and received funding from businessmen Sean O’Driscoll and Maurice Healy, which Ms Sheehy said was a “massive boost” in helping to ramp up their marketing campaign.

Clients typically come from the US and Canada, as well as continental Europe and Asia and incorporate leisure and corporate, and cater across demographics including families with children, multi-generational, and the newly retired. 

The corporate side of the market includes add-ons for business owners or heads of companies who are over for conferences who want to spend a few days exploring Dublin or the west of Ireland.

“People love Ireland; they all have some connection or awareness of what we have to offer,” said Ms Sheehy.

The bespoke service ensures “no trip is the same.” 

Itineraries are tailored to suit their clients’ needs, from well-trodden trails, including the Ancient East and Wild Atlantic Way, smaller and more niche food, whiskey or luxury train tours, as well as trips to locations such as where ‘Game of Thrones’ was filmed. 

They might take in “one or two hikes, a distillery, a food tour or a history tour of Dublin. It’s better to have a little bit of everything to get a flavour of Ireland,” Ms Sheehy said.

The package depends on level of service requested. It starts from when they touch down at Dublin Airport, according to Ms Sheehy. 

Each trip includes a concierge service, and everything can be arranged from the accommodation, transportation, activities, private tour guides and drivers, dining reservations and other services such as genealogy.

“We pay all of the suppliers before they arrive, so if we’ve done our job right, they shouldn’t have to worry about check-out or even dinner.”

According to Ms Sheehy, Ireland Luxury Travel offers something unique. 

You couldn’t plan the trip that we plan for you just by looking on the internet because a lot of people that we work with don’t even have websites. I don’t hide the fact that we’re small. 

I do find that people like that. They want to see Blarney Castle and Bunratty, but they also want to visit the place that maybe no one back home has seen.

Trips can be anything from five nights to two to three weeks.

Hotels are handpicked and are typically four and five-star establishments. Ms Sheehy said: “It’s about the whole experience. 

Visitors from the States, Singapore and Hong Kong often expect a certain standard of accommodation, for example, room or bed sizes. We have lovely hotels that can match anywhere in the world. But what makes a trip to Ireland special is the people,” she said.

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