Cathal O'Connell, founder of Paddywagon Tours, had been guiding backpackers from Africa to Auckland and Australia's Bonsai Beach for several years when he decided to start up a similar business in Ireland, reports Forbes.
The tourism industry had long played to middle-aged and elderly American tourists looking for their Irish roots. O'Connell decided to aim for the younger crowd.
O'Connell, a.k.a. "Dublin Charlie" says he founded Paddywagon Tours some "beery afternoon" when he wrote the name on a beer mat in New Zealand.
“The name ‘Paddywagon’ came to me in a flash,” O’Connell once said in an interview. “I knew everybody else in the business would hate what I would be doing under that name for subverting everything they were trying to pretend to be. But I knew young people, who they had ignored for years, would love it. That name was my gold.”
He began his business by festooning his buses with leprechauns, sending nude streakers bearing “Paddywagon” banners across Australian sports pitches, buying up rundown buildings across Ireland that he called “Paddies Palaces."
“Today’s young people don’t come here because they’ve read every last word of Joyce or Yeats, they’re lucky if they’ve even heard of them. But they are as entitled as anybody else to enjoy Ireland’s hospitality and to be well looked after at prices they can afford, even if getting drunk is one of their biggest goals,” said O'Connell.
“We were the first to understand our market segment, which includes a lot of young females from America and Australia and the U.K. whose chief purpose is to get drunk in a trustful setting with hilarious people right and left.”
Paddywagon Tours had grown exponentially throughout the last decade, but then the economy tanked with Irish hotels becoming more economical for every age group and competitors pushing in on Charlie's market of adventure travel for the young.
Today, O’Connell’s business handles around 90,000 visitors a year.
Day trips have become one of the highest growing areas of the travel market, but providers of those are difficult to find. O'Connell seeks to remedy that gap with his new venture DayToursWorld.com, with $400,00 of seed funding from the government, which is now on the look out for ideas that have big growth potential.
“We found that 80-90 percent of day tour activity and excursion providers 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 $89 billion in 2011,” O’Connell has said in a recent interview.
Forbes reports that the company, which is seeking international investors, is back to its guerilla marketing tactics, offering free stays in its “Paddies Palaces” for lodging X number of promotional emails on its behalf.
The company's marketing man Steve McPhilemy has said that the new enterprise already has 15,000 excursion accessible on its website. Offerings at the moment cover not only trips in Ireland but also also horseback tours of the Abu Sir pyramids in Egypt, quad bike safaris along the Nile, walking tours in Rome, cooking classes in Turkey, ballooning in Cappadocia, bicycling in Sydney, and ghost hunting in Prague.
Happy Earth Day! Ireland sure looks gorgeous from outer space