Day trip firm jumps on online bandwagon

THE entrepreneur responsible for sending green, leprechaun-emblazoned, tourist filled Paddywagon buses all around Ireland has decided to take on the world.

Cathal O’Connell the founder of Paddywagon Tours, has now created — marketed as the only website dedicated to providing day trips and excursion all over the world.

Set up in 2011, it employs a staff of 11, offers over 15,000 different activities and is aiming to be the number one website in the world for people booking day tours. Its offering includes tours of many of the world’s best known tourist sites as well as activities such as ballooning in Cappadocia and ghost hunting in Prague for the more adventurous.

Mr O’Connell’s first company Paddywagon Tours was founded 15 years ago. Now operating tours to all the major tourist sites in Ireland it carries an estimated 90,000 passengers a year.

While doing some research on the day tour market for Paddywagon, Mr O’Connell noted that while technology is now used to book hotels and airline tickets, tourists don’t have the same online booking options for day tours.

When he investigated he found there were no dedicated websites for activities or excursions.

“Mostly it’s still about gathering up brochures and making phone calls.

“Many of the operators offering day tours or excursions don’t have websites — you can’t book a jaunting car in Killarney online or a fishing trip in Cape Cod,” Mr O’Connell said.

Three years ago he came to the conclusion that the market was wide open for the provision of a website which offered tourists the option of booking a day tour anywhere in the world online.

Creating such a website required the agreement of thousands of day tour operators to create a global offering. Mr O’Connell decided to build it gradually using his own funding and utilising resources provided by Paddywagon.

Registering in 2011, he was joined in setting up the company by Stephen O’Sullivan, a graphic designer who took responsibility for developing the website. Meanwhile Mr O’Connell worked on the content.

“We offered free accommodation to people staying in the Paddywagon hostels if they sent 100 emails or made 100 telephone calls a day to get operators to sign up with the new website,’’ he said.

The website charges the operators 10% per booking. Mr O’Connell says this is considerably less than the 30% usually charged by agents.

“Our selling points are our low commission and the fact that no one else is doing this,” he said.

“We now have more than 15,000 excursions on the portal, you can book to jump out of airplane in Sydney or take cookery lessons in Turkey. We started by picking out the 30 biggest countries and worked on them — it was a very time consuming process,’’ he adds went live in 2011, but Mr O’Connell has been waiting until the content has reached a certain level to launch an intensive marketing campaign.

At present the focus is on search engine optimisation Mr O’Connell wants to ensure that is in the top three results for anyone who does a Google search for day tours.

Mr O’Connell has been supported by Enterprise Ireland who identified DayToursWorld as a high potential start-up last year and provided €300,000 of an investment. The company is now working on securing a further €200,000 from the AIB Seed Fund. Enterprise Ireland has also helped with market research.

“We found that 80-90% of day tour activity and excursion provider do not possess a booking engine and through our research with Enterprise Ireland we discovered that the world day tour market had a value of $89bn (€69.2bn) in 2011,” says Mr O’Connell.

This funding is being used to continue building content on the website and also on online marketing.

“We are now signing up between 30 to 40 operators every day and our aim is to have tens of thousands. The next step will be a major media campaign using TV and social networking to get world wide attention,” reveals Mr O’Connell.

Based at Gardener Street in Dublin city centre, DayToursWorld plans to take on additional sales and customer service personnel and expects to grow the workforce to 40 by 2015.

The company is now looking for an investor, possibly one with experience in the tourist industry, to help fund its expansion. Mr O’Connell believes Daytoursworld has the potential to achieve a multi-million turnover within five years.


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