Business

Belfast-Glasgow express coach service woos international visitors

Theresa Gessler from Würzburg in Germany, Elisa Volpi from Florence in Italy and Hannon driver Ralph Luc arrive at Donegall Square West in Belfast

MORE than a quarter (27 per cent) of all passengers who've travelled on a twice-daily direct coach service between Belfast and Glasgow in its first year of operation have been international visitors from outside UK and Ireland.

The service, operated by Craigavon firm Hannon Coach, has carried visitors from 85 different overseas countries since its launch last summer.

And a key element of the passenger load hasn't just been traditional back-packers, day-trippers or gap year students, but also a strong ‘grey dollar' cohort from the USA, Australia and Canada.

“It's been a hugely successful first year for the service,” company director Aodh Hannon said.

“We knew international visitors and back-packers were going to be an important market, but we never imagined that we would carry so many different nationalities or that they would make up quarter of the overall business.”

He added: “There's a shared history and natural connection between Northern Ireland and Glasgow, which means people will always need travel options, and the success of this new express service shows there is a lot of potential to grow this market further.”

Hannon Coach is expecting this summer to be busier still and has expanded its online sales channels in north America and Europe. It has also invested in a joint advertising campaign with Stena Line targeted at the domestic market.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said he was thrilled so many international visitors are using the Hannon service and said he is committed to ensuring Northern Ireland continues to increase its share of the global travel business.

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