Siobhán Byrne Learat talks to Trish Dromey about the success of her upscale tour operator firm Adams & Butler.
Arranging a castle stay in Ireland for Michael Jackson when he visited in 2006, helped Dublin company Adams & Butler become established as a travel organiser for the ultra-rich and the very famous.
“Michael Jackson stayed for a year, spending time at Luggala Castle in Wicklow and at a country house in Westmeath. He was our first mega client. Since then we have organised holidays in Ireland for celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Kim and Kanye West, and Harrison Forde,” says company founder Siobhán Byrne Learat, adding that business clients have included chiefs executive and presidents of global companies such as Disney, Pixel and Starbucks.
Catering for the very wealthy, the company describes itself as an “upscale tour operator providing tailor-made product using the finest castle hotels, private stately mansions, and country houses”.
In addition to arranging luxury accommodation, Adams & Butler also offers customised itineraries which provide guide services from members of the aristocracy, as well as authors, historians and genealogists.
“Clients can stay in private residences such as Lismore Castle, Luggala Castle and Shanagarry House in Cork. We can offer them a range of experiences, such as having a glass of whiskey with a member of the Jameson family, eating lunch with the Earl of Ross in Birr Castle or taking a private tour with historian Turtle Bunbury,” she says.
Employing 10 people, the company generated sales of €2.5m last year. With the launch of a new website offering customised holiday in Africa, it aims to grow sales to €3.3m this year.
Starting out in 2003, it took time for Adams & Butler to become established as a go-to company for celebrities looking to stay in Ireland.
Ms Byrne Learat had previously worked in a company which provided high-end rentals and saw an opportunity to use her contacts with the owners of stately homes and castles to set up in business on her own.
Initially she found that the clients who contacted her wanted suites in five-star hotels and not stays in private residences.
She wasn’t attracting the ultra wealthy. But in 2005, she succeeded in getting Adams & Butler accepted as a preferred supplier by Virtuoso — the largest global player in the luxury travel market with over one million affluent clients.
This resulted in a surge in business and brought in an inquiry from a client looking to stay in an Irish castle —which Ms Byrne Learat subsequently discovered had come from Michael Jackson.
“After that we were on the radar and we were accepted as suppliers by travel leaders,” she says adding that in the region of 90% of turnover comes from business-to-business sales — selling to other companies.
About of 70% of its clients are from the US and 16% are from Brazil and Mexico.
“We probably deal with around five or 10 celebrities a year, as well as a number of very wealthy clients.
“The average spend is between €25,000 and €40,0000 for a two-week stay, but we have a US client who spends €100,000 a year on a holiday and €20,000 on a weekend,” she reveals.
The company began by providing luxury holidays in Ireland only but has since expanded. Catering for the demand for two centre tours, Adams & Butler added Scotland and then the UK to its website and it now offers castle and stately home stays as well the opportunity to lunch with a lord at the House of Lords. Sales of Irish holidays now accounts for half of its sales.
For 2016, Ms Byrne Learat aims to grow the direct sales on its website and to develop sales of luxury holidays in Africa. “We don’t have any Irish clients at present but we are aiming to sell luxury holidays in Africa, Europe and South America to the Irish market,” she says.
Adams & Butler
Siobhán Byrne Learat
Luxury tour operator
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