Paddywagon Tours have won a ‘Golden Backpack’ the award for top tour-operator in the ‘UK and Ireland’ at a glittering awards ceremony last night in London. The Golden Backpack was presented by Tom Hall, Editor at Lonely Planet.
Paddywagon are the largest carrier of tourists into Derry, with a daily day-trip from Dublin city centre to Derry via the Giants Causeway every day, 364 days per year!
The award was collected by founder Cathal ‘Charlie’ O’Connell and Paddywagon’s marketing director Stephen McPhilemy, from Lifford. Stephen and Charlie also operate the well-known Paddy’s Palace Tourist Hostel on Asylum Road which itself won the Derry City Business awards in 2007.
Other finalists in the Golden Backpacks included industry heavyweights British Airways, Thomas Cook and Contiki Holidays.
Commenting, Stephen McPhilemy said: “This is a massive boost for Paddywagon’s already huge international profile and is a life-time achievement for all involved who have shed the proverbial blood, sweat and tears down these last 10 years. The prestige associated with being named best tour-operator in the UK and Ireland, in these trying times, is the catalyst we need to up our efforts ten-fold.
“We are proud of our investment in Derry and Donegal, proud to be bringing ten buses of tourists per week to this historic city on cold October nights, when other tour companies have gone off hibernating for the winter and are nowhere to be seen.
“At Paddywagon we prefer to leave the hot air to others and get on with the job of filling our green fleet with tourists and putting travelling bums on seats. “We see happy days ahead for Paddywagon and tourism in Derry and Donegal!”
Stephen, who appears on PBS TV in the US with his mentor Rick Steves, has already won a coveted ‘Hoscar’ in his glittering ten-year travel career. But his ultimate travel day-dream is closer to home, bringing a state of the art tourist-hostel to Lifford!
“A few years ago I discussed the idea with local businessman Austin Daly, and once I find the time I intend to again and also send a text to my old school friends Mickey Joe Harte and Shay Given, get the community on board and start filling Lifford with bus-loads of fun-loving 18-35 year old Aussies and Kiwis! Make it the new Bundoran!” said Stephen.