September 23, 2020

A Cork pioneer who is helping tourists to find their feet here

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2014-09-14_bus_3362175_I1By Louise McBride From Independent IE

Swimming with sea turtles in Barbados or climbing Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica might be high on your wish list if you’re lucky enough to visit the Caribbean islands soon.

However, unless you know how to get to those attractions, you might well miss the opportunity to get there.

Cork man and founder of TravelBuddy, Peter Conway, is behind a new mobile phone app which helps tourists find their way to major visitor attractions and to organise day tours. The app can currently only be used by tourists visiting Ireland. However, as Mr Conway expects to start testing the app in the Caribbean later this year, Irish people visiting those sunny islands could soon be using the app there too.

Although TravelBuddy has only been trading for about a year, Mr Conway has about 25 years experience in the travel industry. He is therefore well aware of one major challenge which tour operators are up against – being able to communicate with their customers on the ground in their holiday destination.

“On average, a customer who comes from the United States to Ireland books between four and five months in advance,” said Mr Conway. “But they’re booking their flights and hotels. They’re not booking activity tours in advance. So when a tourist leaves a travel agent after booking their flights and so on, it’s very hard for the travel agent to talk to the customer once that customer is on the ground in their holiday destination.”

TravelBuddy spent two-and-a-half years developing an app which allows travel agents to overcome that challenge.

“We are the first company to provide travel agents with a solution where they can communicate and sell to their clients when the clients are on the ground,” said Mr Conway. “But not just travel agents, the model applies to any company who has a large tourism footprint such as airlines, ferry companies, cruise lines, hotels and so on. A tourist might be walking down Grafton Street and once he passes by a certain spot, he’ll get what looks like a text message. That message might say: ‘Here’s something you could be interested in’. It might be the Book of Kells, or the National Leprechaun Museum and so on. He can then click on the app to get a map showing him how to get there – or to book a ticket or tour in advance.”

Travel agents who cannot get in touch with their customers when they’re on the ground are losing out on enormous business. In Ireland alone, the tourist activity market – which includes day tours and activities – is worth about €500m a year, according to Mr Conway. “It’s not small change,” he said. “About 60pc of tourist activities and day tours are booked offline – that is on the day or when a tourist turns up at an attraction.”

As well as being able to book day tours and activities through its app, tourists can also do so through the TravelBuddy website (www.travelbuddyireland.com).

“We’re the first Irish company which has got all of the tours and activities in Ireland – and put them under the one roof,” said Mr Conway.

The TravelBuddy mobile app is currently only available for use in Ireland. “All things being equal, we will be in London by late 2014,” said Mr Conway, who also plans to test the app in the Caribbean around then.

So why the Caribbean? It all goes back to the early days of Mr Conway’s career.

“I was lucky in my early travel career to get a chance to go to the Caribbean islands,” said Mr Conway. “I got a love for the place. I love the pace of life over there. I had always wanted to set up my own business so it became an obvious choice to set up a Caribbean holiday company.”

So in 2003, Mr Conway set up Caribbean Collection – a tour operator which specialised in Caribbean holidays. Caribbean Collection has been run by Club Travel in Dublin since 2009 and Mr Conway is no longer involved with the business.

“For five of the six years that I ran Caribbean Collection, it went very well for us but the recession hit after that,” said Mr Conway. “I’ve still got a lot of contacts in the Caribbean and that’s one of the reasons we’ve started to test the app out there.”

Although it’s early days for the company, Mr Conway said there is “a slow steady trail of business coming through all the time”.

“Ultimately, we make our money from booking sales,” said Mr Conway. “Most sales are out of Dublin. The day tours, such as Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher or Giant’s Causeway, are the biggest sellers. Tourists from the United States and Britain are the main users of our site. The US tourists tend to buy the higher priced items while the British tourists tend to buy the passes, such as buses from Dublin Airport and so on.”

Mr Conway gets much of the inspiration for his business from his own travels. “I’ve been to over 50 countries,” said Mr Conway. “I look for ideas everywhere I go. Everytime you go travelling, you become enriched with knowledge, information and awareness of one’s environment.”

Mr Conway couldn’t have got the timing of his new business any better. He set up TravelBuddy in 2012 and the company has been trading since August 2013 – in the middle of a record year for Irish tourism (thanks largely to The Gathering). This year is shaping up to be another bumper year for Irish tourism.

“The international perception of what Ireland has to offer has grown significantly over the last few years,” said Mr Conway. “As we are the first company to blend all the activity companies under the one roof, we are in a particularly strong position to benefit from the pick up in tourism.”

Sunday Indo Business

IMAGE: Peter Conway

For more on this story go to: http://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/a-cork-pioneer-who-is-helping-tourists-to-find-their-feet-here-30584791.html#sthash.FkYjGH7K.dpuf

 

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