Viking Splash company tests the waters in Europe with €5m vehicle
City Splash Tours, the company which operates the Viking Splash Tours in Dublin city centre, is to expand into the UK after entering a joint venture with a London company.
This comes as the firm, owned by entrepreneurs Des and Fergal Rogers, launch their new amphibious vehicle, the Salamander, which they have spent €5m developing.
Last week they showcased the new vehicle at the Euro Attractions Show in Barcelona, Spain, with the aim of reaching new franchise agreements in cities in Europe. They also hope to expand into the US.
At present, amphibious tour operators use World War II army trucks called DUKWs. However, these ageing vehicles are not sustainable for the future, limiting the expansion of Viking Splash Tours and other similar operators.
DUKWs have also been involved in serveral accidents outside Ireland, including some involving fatalities.
On the back of this, the Irish company, which bought Viking Splash for €1.3m in 2006, has been working on the development of the Salamander for four years.
Said Fergal Rogers of Rogers Group Investment (RGI): "We initially developed a prototype in Berlin and then we brought the project back to Belfast, focusing on designing and fabricating the modern version of the vehicle."
The new Salamander looks the same as the original DUKW vehicle and has similar capabilities.
The UK joint venture is with Golden Tours, which has around 35 hop on, hop off buses in London and 15 coaches.
"The opportunity in London brings us into a different category of city," Rogers said. The company has seven vehicles in Dublin and is planning to launch 20 vehicles in London for a number of themed tours.
Rogers added that they would initially make new vehicles in Belfast but would licence out the production over time.
Only franchisees or joint-venture partners will be able to order the vehicles, he said.
The Viking Splash Tours business currently has a turnover of €1.8m and is hoping for significant growth.
Rogers compared the opportunity in London to a similar operation in Boston in terms of scale. It carries 600,000 passengers and has revenues of $20m a year. "That gives you an idea of the potential scale when you get into large cities," he said.
At the height of the season, Viking Splash Tours employs 35 people in Dublin.
Sunday Indo Business