Titanic tourism boom is good news for local tour operator

Rodney and Caroline McComb with John Deery (centre) from the Northern Bank. INNT 16-603CON
Rodney and Caroline McComb with John Deery (centre) from the Northern Bank. INNT 16-603CON

AN AWARD-WINNING Newtownabbey based tour operator is expanding its fleet of coaches to cope with tourist demand.

The opening of landmarks such as Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Visitors’ Centre, as well as the upcoming Irish Open golf tournament, has been good news for Jordanstown husband and wife team Rodney and Caroline McComb, who established their tour company 16 years ago.

McComb’s Executive Travel and Tours, which last month scooped the top accolade for ‘2012 Coach Operator of the Year’ at the Federation of Passenger Transport Awards, started off with just a small Volkswagen Caravelle in 1996 offering airport transfers for hotels and private passengers tours from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway. Last year the operator boasted of over 25,000 passengers.

Caroline said: “Over half of our business is attributed to tourism, with tours ranging from one-day trips to the North Coast to five-day tours around Cork and Kerry, Derry and Donegal.

“Last year we provided transport for major events such as the British Transplant Games and Amnesty International World Conference, and in November were hired exclusively by Swatch for the MTV European Music Awards which they sponsored.”

She added: “We are very grateful for the ongoing support of organisations such as the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau, whose work in attracting tourists to Northern Ireland is vital and without whom we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.”

Co-director Rodney is confident that the continued spotlight on Northern Ireland this year will have significant impact on the company’s turnover.

“We have seen rapid expansion in the past 16 years, with our coach fleet and staff growing significantly as demand for our services has increased,” he said.

“As a result of this year’s tourism boom, demand is already so high that, with the financial assistance of Northern Bank, we have recently invested almost half a million pounds to further increase the size of our fleet with the purchase of two new 49-seater state-of-the-art executive coaches.

“We have also developed our service offering into the private chauffeuring market with the purchase of a luxury Mercedes car and a new Volkswagen Caravelle for small parties. As a result, we expect to see our turnover increase significantly this year.”

John Deery from the Northern Bank added: “We are committed to making it more straightforward for excellent indigenous companies like McComb’s to continually develop and grow through the ongoing support of our team and financial assistance - in this case through our asset finance credit unit to finance the purchase of the new vehicles.

“McComb’s has banked with us since day one and we have always been greatly encouraged by the company’s strong business acumen and ambition for growth. We look forward to continuing to work with the company in the years to come.”