Enhancing the Irish experience

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Cork-based Butlers Buses turns 50 this year, and what better way to celebrate the milestone than with a brand new livery and four new vehicles?

There are many aspects that make a business successful.

For Butlers Buses in Cobh, County Cork, it’s the drivers-cum-tour guides and staying ahead of the game that plays a pivotal role in its success.

Seanie Butler with a replica model of his first minibus

Set up by Seanie Butler in 1967, using a Volkswagen minibus servicing local schools and sports clubs, Butlers is now run by his sons Ian and Kevin.

After 50 years, Butlers still looks after the transport needs for some of the same schools and clubs it started with, and now offers guided coach tours around Ireland and Scotland.

One thing’s for certain, it’s doing something right.

Celebrating 50 years

To celebrate the company’s 50-year anniversary, Butlers has bought four new coaches for its 14-strong fleet.

Two Volvo 9700s have just been delivered, and one Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Turas 500 and one Iveco Turas 700, both supplied by Noones, are coming in March.

“The Volvo 9700 has the great kerb appeal and has the extra wow factor from the second you get on board, which our customers will certainly notice and appreciate,” says Ian Butler.

“The Turas is second to none in terms of quality and workmanship. We have already tried and tested each of these coaches and are delighted with their performance, so we did not hesitate to place new orders.”

A new livery, designed by Ian, will adorn the new vehicles. “The bird is our logo’s stripes blended into a kingfisher bird, which represents freedom and elegance,” says Ian. “If it is well received, it will be rolled out onto our other vehicles.”

A new livery has been designed by Ian to commemorate 50 years

Butlers is also holding a prize draw to celebrate the 50-year anniversary. Customers can enter the draw via the company’s website and “the winner gets a choice of a tour in Ireland, which also includes a driver/guide.

“The competition has attracted lots of attention with over 2,500 entries so far, and the draw takes place on 31 March,” says Ian.

The Irish experience

Butlers relies mostly on inbound tourism, with most customers coming from the USA and Canada. Although the company mainly deals with private tours, it also provides transport for the local area, such as school contracts and social outings.

The quality of Butlers’ tours is what Ian considers to be the biggest part of the business’ success.

“The drivers are a big part of our tours,” he says. “Regardless of any technology or luxury coaches, the credit of our success rests squarely with our drivers.”

All Butlers’ drivers are also experienced guides and they even receive in-house tour guide training to provide passengers with an on-board guided tour, which Ian says “really enhances the Irish experience.

“This way it keeps costs down for groups as well, as they don’t have to pay for a separate guide.”

The Internet and social media also play a big part. “We have made good use of the Internet over the last 10 years and that has definitely increased our success,” Ian adds.

Forward thinking

Ian has always been interested in computers and taught himself programming as a teenager.

Kevin (left) and Ian Butler with the company’s two new Volvo 9700s

His interest means Butlers has always been ahead of the curve in terms of technology.

The company was one of the first operators to embrace the online opportunity, with its first website going live in 1997.

“This was a great success,” says Ian. “It brought in a new stream of work from overseas customers and set us on the way to becoming a touring company and investing in high spec touring coaches.”

Ian also developed the software for Butlers’ online booking system, which is not only used for all bookings but it also handles many aspects of the business, including scheduling, invoicing, and drivers’ hours.

“We have been using this system exclusively since 2004 without a hitch. The software was given a major upgrade in 2012, receiving lots of enhancements and a nice modern look and feel,” Ian says.

Looking ahead

With increasing bookings for extended tours to include Scotland, Butlers is offering a scheduled tour combining both Ireland and Scotland for the first time this year.

“Our plan is to increase our private extended tours bookings each year,” says Ian. “And we are also open to acquiring another business should the right opportunity present itself.

“We have seen quite a few changes in the last 50 years and look forward to the next 50 – perhaps we will see the driverless coach used on a commercial basis in the next decade.”