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Campervan company cruising through Covid

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THE HANDOVERKevin Ryan (left) of Ireland West Motorhomes pictured handing over the keys to Mick Walsh and John Ralph who travelled to Poland to support the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2012.

Leaving Lockdown

Ger Flanagan

DRIVING around any scenic town or village these weeks and you’re bound to meet more than a few campervans on the road as the nation embraces staycations.
Chances are one of those vans may belong to the Ireland West Motorhomes fleet, owned by Castlebar man Kevin Ryan.
Rewind back to April and May, Kevin admits he was ready to ‘throw the keys into the middle of the road’ and wave goodbye to the business he’s been running for eleven years as Covid-19 threatened to wipe out the whole tourism industry.
Thankfully he didn’t; the industry recovered and they’re now booked out well into the autumn months.
“The demand has been absolutely crazy,” he told The Mayo News. “Hits on our website are up probably 300 percent and the phone calls are just absolutely constant.
“We’ve ten vans on the road and we’re generally always booked out for July and August anyway, so we’re not going to make any more money in those months as you normally would, but it has stretched out now to where September and October are now almost gone, which is a huge bonus for us.
“If I had 40 vans, I would have had them out for most of July and August, that’s absolutely 100 percent certain.”
Living so close to the Wild Atlantic Way has been a huge benefit to the small, family-owned business, as staycationers have been flocking from all over the country to take in some of the most breathtaking views Ireland has to offer.
Covid-19 has, Kevin says, given people the opportunity to do something they’ve always wanted to do and explore the Western Way.
“We’ve got people from all over the country renting vans,” he said. “We’re eleven years in the business now and you get to know what attracts people, so we’ve been pushing the Wild Atlantic Way, which is a massive bonus to have in this county.
“People are coming down from Dublin, parking their stuff here starting their holiday on the Wild Atlantic Way and within an hour of leaving you’re in the most beautiful part of the country.
“A lot of people have the attitude that this is something they’ve always wanted to try and this year has been the perfect opportunity for them to do it. This fine weather has also been a huge advantage as the likelihood of customers coming back again is much higher.”
Reports from staycationers have been hugely positive too and Kevin is hoping it will open peoples’ that they can holiday in Ireland as opposed to going abroad every year.
“What’s positive for us if that we’ve had an awful lot of first-time campervaners and they’ve all come back with positive feedback and reactions,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to keep some of them at home next year too and thereafter.
“Now, not everyone likes it. One person in particular came back and he was cursing Ireland and cursing everything and anything that moved! But thankfully that’s a very small percentage.
“This is a different style holiday, some people like to go to a beach and do nothing and relax.”
During Covid-19 Ireland West Motorhomes offered their vans free of charge to frontline workers who need to self-isolate as a token of goodwill.
The biggest cost to the business coming from the pandemic was the purchase of ozone machines which sterilise and kill all bacteria in the van. But their company policy of keeping the vans in top-class shape inside and out is standing to them.
And despite the upturn in business, Kevin isn’t getting carried away just yet, as the threat of a second wave is always there.
“That risk is sill there for us,” he said. “That would set us back to square one again straight away.
“We will have to give refunds and deposits back, and it’s scary to think what could actually happen again.
“So we’re sitting tight right now and hoping for the best. It’s definitely looking positive and we’re hoping that it will stay that way.”