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Uniquely HK

Brand Story

Big Bus: Hopping on tourism’s boom

Since it began in London 24 years ago, Big Bus has created a unique travel experience in 16 other cities around the world. And it’s showing no signs of stopping as it rides the global tourism boom

 

“Have fun guys!” Says Eva to her parents as they board the red double decker at Hong Kong’s Star Ferry Pier. “I’ll see you back here at six, and then we can have dinner okay?” Eva’s retired parents, visiting from California for a week, wave back. It’s their second day on the Big Bus tour, and this time they’re on the Green Route, which takes them through Hong Kong Island’s South Side. Their itinerary includes Stanley Beach and Market, the historic Murray House, Repulse Bay Beach, Ocean Park, Aberdeen and even a ride on a traditional sampan boat around the harbour, weaving past floating villages and clusters of fishing boats. 

 

 

Yesterday, while Eva was at work, her parents did the Red Route. They covered a lot of ground without having to worry about the logistics of where to go or how to get there – not to mention free entrance to various establishments as their feet were spared all the walking. The Red Route took them through Victoria Peak, Causeway Bay, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Man Mo Temple, the Mid-Levels Escalator, and more in just one day. That’s not even counting the night tour.

 

The convenience and enjoyment Big Bus brought to Eva and her parents is one of the reasons the company remains so successful well over two decades after it began. Customers have found it to be a stress-free way of experiencing a city’s sights and sounds.

 

 

Back in 1991, Richard, Eleanor and Desmond Maybury founded the company with four open-top double-decker buses. The family business was a hit with tourists, who loved getting above the crowds, leisurely going through their day hopping on and off the bus as they liked. Customers also appreciated the informative and entertaining commentary in several different languages.

 

In 20 years the company had more than 150 buses worldwide with operations in Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Philadelphia. Since then it hasn’t stopped growing: Big Bus currently operates tours from Istanbul to Sydney – no doubt with more destinations up their sleeve.

 

In 2007 the Maybury family sold 30 per cent of their shares to the Abu Dhabi-based Al Fahim Group. In 2011, The Big Bus Company Ltd (London) merged with another established sightseeing tour business – Les Cars Rouges based in Paris. The combined expertise of the two obviously clicked because the mooted worth of Big Bus Tours today is around£450 million. 

 

 

Since the company appointed JP Morgan last year to find a buyer, a few private equity firms have lined up, including the UK-headquartered European buyout specialist Permira, America’s Advent International, and Omers Private Equity – the investment arm of a Canadian pension fund.

 

Whoever ends up owning the company, we know one thing: the world’s biggest operator of high quality hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours will only continue to rise with the growth tourism globally. And although Big Bus might not be up the next backpacker’s alley, the weekend warriors and day-trippers will certainly be making a beeline for this stop.n

 

Big Bus Hong Kong’s packages include a Deluxe Tour valid for 48 hours (HK$500) and a Premium Tour valid for 24 hours (HK$450). The Single Route Ticket (HK$270) gives a choice of any one route.

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