Troubling times won’t stop Hop-on Hop-off tours from exploring Dublin

Hop-on Hop-off tours are a huge part of the tourism industry in major cities around the globe. Conor Kenny reveals how various Irish tour companies plan on proceeding in the future.   

In pre-COVID times, Hop-on Hop-off bus tours gave tourists and Irish people a wonderful insight into Dublin. Hop-on Hop-off bus tours catered to everyone whilst travelling through cultural and historical places in Dublin such as the Spire, the Phoenix ParkTemple Bar and the Liberties. 

However, the bright red buses of City Sightseeing Dublin were forced to halt on the 13th of March last year when COVID-19 hit Ireland. The pandemic has forced City Sightseeing Dublin to place most of their staff on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The company has recently applied for the new Failte Ireland Tourism Business Continuity Scheme. 

“We’re hoping to be eligible for that, which would give us 8% of our turnover from 2019. The only problem was that we only started in June 2019, so we’re missing out on a big chunk of the year, but if we can get some support it would help since we’ve had none so far,” said Keith McDonnell, managing director of City Sightseeing Dublin.

City Sightseeing Dublin re-opened for a few weeks in August, McDonnell told the Liberty: “When the tours resumed there weren’t too many tourists around, September’s restrictions also meant we couldn’t stay open much longer and we haven’t operated since then.”

McDonnell estimated that it could be around July before the tours resume. 

In the meantime, City Sightseeing Dublin hope to take their tours to the next level, with the introduction of a range of different commentaries including Irish, North and South Dublin slang and a Horrible Histories option. This will enable the tour company to give an even greater insight into some historic parts of Dublin such as the many distilleries of the Liberties.  

McDonnell describes the Liberties as “an integral part of Dublin. For us at City Sightseeing it’s one of the highlights of the tour. There’s a real sense of a tight community in the Liberties, you could spend the whole day there just walking around.” 

There’s a real sense of a tight community in the Liberties, you could spend the whole day there just walking around.”

Keith McDonnell, Managing Director of City Sightseeing Dublin. 

Similar to City Sightseeing Dublin’s red hop-on hop-off tours, DoDublin’s contrasting green buses are also eager to resume tours.  

““There was a hesitancy for people to visit Dublin last summer – many attractions in Dublin City would likely agree with this. Despite the domestic market holidaying at home, we found that many people preferred to go to rural destinations and along the Wild Atlantic Way,” said Sean McDaid from DoDublin’s commercial department.  

DoDublin are also hoping to be eligible for the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme, which was introduced by Failte Ireland on the 11th of February to help Irish tourism businesses.  

“We also continue working closely and strengthening ties with our existing tour partners and agents around the world. We have to keep in contact and make sure they know we’re ready to come back when it’s viable to do so,” said McDaid. 

“We have partners with attractions, museums, and day tour companies that now sell their products on our website. In a way, it’s giving customers a homegrown local competitor to sites like TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide.” 

DoDublin Image by Seán McDaid.

The Liberties are also a key part of the DoDublin tours and many of their tour guides are personally connected to the area. 

“Not only are ours tours a highlight for tourists, but they’re also a highlight for our tour guides, many of whom would have grown up in the area, so you can imagine the pride shown by our guides bringing visitors from around the world to the Liberties,” said McDaid.  

McDaid also praised the “world-class” attractions that the Liberties have to offer. “It’s great to see that we have some of Ireland’s and Europe’s best tourist attractions in the Liberties. The Guinness Storehouse is the most popular attraction in the city, and sites like Dublinia, Christ Church, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are up there with the best tourist attractions in the country. 

Although it will be tough for the tourism industry to reach its peak again, both City Sightseeing Dublin and DoDublin are hopeful that their buses will be back on the roads sometime this year.  

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