“I always wanted to do small group tours because they are personal and intimate. It’s then that you get to connect with people and have an authentic experience.” A conversation with Sean Power, founder of Irish Experience Tours.
Born out of the belief that travel in Ireland should be small-scale, locally-driven and authentically rooted in human connection, Irish Experience Tours was born in 2008. Today, its mission remains unchanged: to welcome like-minded travellers who seek spontaneity and easygoing adventures.
Here, we delve deep into Irish Experience Tour’s brand DNA with founder, Sean Power, to uncover its core values, stance on responsible tourism, and plans for the future.
1. Can you tell me about yourself and your background in tourism?
The family business, Jackie Power Tours, was started by my father, Jakie Power, in 1986. It was a local bus and transport company, which grew into a small tour business with day trips in Ireland. By twenty-one – with my bus license in hand – I was working in the family business, and my passion grew from there.
In 2004, I went back to college as a mature student and got a degree in Business in Tourism. During my course, I did an Erasmus in France, and it was this experience that sparked the realisation of the vast numbers of Erasmus students in Ireland who were not catered for in terms of travel. When I came back from Nice in 2008, I started doing day tours around the Ring of Kerry and Dingle; that was the beginning of Irish Experience Tours.
My angle was always easygoing adventures in areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as Bray Head on Valentia Island and Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula. Soon, we went from one- to three-day tours.
I always wanted to do small group tours because they are personal and intimate. It’s then that you get to connect with people and have an authentic experience.
2. What is Irish Experience Tours’ mission?
I wanted to introduce an innovative style of travel that mixed sightseeing with adventure tours. To enable people to connect with places and people in an authentic way is my goal.
There are many companies where you can enjoy group tours, drive around on a bus, and look out the window. For Irish Experience Tours, I wanted to create an experience that was spontaneous and dynamic. If there is a good place to stop, we stop, get out and explore – regardless of whether it’s on the itinerary or not.
This approach works particularly well for solo travellers who feel more engaged with the group, opposed to being confined to one seat for the entire day.
3. Can you tell me about your top three tours and what makes them unique/special?
The ‘10-day wild Irish experience‘ is one of our top tours. What makes it unique is that you get to spend two nights in Clifden, Dingle and Killarney. You’re not packing and unpacking all the time. There is a lot of free time involved, too. This tour is special as it enables people to experience Ireland like a local. Of course, we visit the Cliffs of Moher, but instead of accessing it via the tourist trail, we walk the cliff path from Doolin; away from the crowds and favoured by locals, it’s a more intimate experience. We also visit West Kerry Sheep Dog Demonstrations; I believe its the range of activities involved, and the relaxed and flexible nature of this tour that makes it so popular.
Another one of our top tours is the ‘13-day full Irish’. It is essentially the ten-day tour, plus Northern Ireland. When we leave Dublin, we start by boarding a traditional Irish open boat called a currach; it’s a fantastic way to begin weaving through the Boyne Valley, which is essentially an open-air museum. In Northern Ireland, we do some great activities, including a black cab tour of Belfast and the Titanic Museum. We also explore the Giant’s Causeway via a stunning walk from the Dunseverick Castle.
The ‘7-day Atlantic south’ is our third most popular tour. Guests love this tour because they get an overnight stay in Galway, Doolin, Kinsale, as well as two nights in Dingle. There are also four castle tours, including Portumna Castle, Ross Castle, Blarney Castle, and Cahir Castle.
4. What is your stance on ‘responsible tourism’, and what does it mean to Irish Experience Tours?
The pandemic has given us time to reflect and hone in on what is important to us. It is now time to start changing our habits, and with that, responsible tourism is crucial. To us ‘responsible tourism’ means to keep our tour groups small to reduce environmental impact, support eco-friendly initiatives, give back to the local economy and preserve our Irish cultural heritage.
Moving forward, what we want is to support the local economy. We vie to invest in the local people, the characters, and the industries. Getting involved with local charities and becoming fully aware of the social and environmental issues affecting our homeland is at the forefront of our brand strategy moving forward. There is a big chance to make a change for the good.
5. What do you hope will be the lasting impression from Irish Experience Tours?
Over the years, we have grown to understand that what we offer is very niche and intimate; we are a different type of tour group. We take pride in spending time in places and connecting with the environment and the people, supporting the local community and sharing this love of Ireland with our guests.
I hope that the people walk away with a great impression of Ireland and memories of the people they met. For me, tours come down to so much more than just the sights; it’s the connection with other individuals that truly makes it unique.
6. What has been the biggest challenge as an Irish small business?
Although the pandemic has been detrimental to the industry, unfortunately, the biggest obstacle for me to date was the passing of my father in 2019.
Jackie Power was a huge character and a major influence on my life. Going back on tour three days after his funeral for nearly four months was definitely character building and a useful learning experience for what was to come down the line with the pandemic, which hit us all in different ways.
With restrictions easing, we’re so happy to be back on the road. We’ll be making sure we are doing it safely, of course, and thoroughly complying with government regulations. I guess, there’s no better way to support tourism in Ireland right now than to jump on a trip around our wee island and support the areas and businesses who need it most?!
If you are interested in an Irish adventure this summer, get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org.