By Patrick Markey
A weekend in a haunted house, a family reunion inside an ancient Celtic castle, a year 2000 corporate get-together, or even a secluded cottage after a round of golf on Ireland’s finest greens. Whatever his clients believe Ireland has to offer, Derry Cronin says he will try to conjure into reality for them.
The U.S. representative of the family-run Specialized Travel Services, the Cork-born Cronin, 29, is what he calls “a bridge between tour operators here and the services offered in Ireland.” The company’s product is in fact just that: Ireland. From offices in Cork, Dublin and New York, the company offer to customize just about any type of vacation there, be it a corporate golf trip, an isolated weekend fishing on the West Coast, or a private car and driver tour of the nation’s historical sites.
Although this is Cronin’s third year in the company’s American office in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the company’s roots hint at the type of service they provide: a family touch to an Irish trip.
From a small family business started by his parents in 1957 with just one coach, the company has blossomed into a two-part operation. Cronins Coaches, which now has a fleet of 50 coaches, and Specialized Travel Services, now have offices in Dublin, Cork, and New York, with a staff of 50 employees. All but one of Derry’s siblings — five sisters and a brother — now work in the family trade.
“We all grew up in it, we were all involved in the tourism business in Ireland.” Cronin said, remembering his early days as a coach driver in Ireland.
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“It’s very personal. Our whole family is involved in making people’s plans in Ireland the best they can be. That’s what we do. People’s time is their most valuable thing. If they are only going to do it once, it’s going to have to be right,” he said.
Cronin was already here working, first in Pittsburgh and then later in New York for a fork lift truck sales representative, when the family floated the idea of a New York office three years ago. Now after a risk-tinged start, the company has three representatives in the U.S., including one of Cronin’s sisters. Ireland is hot business today.
Now coordinating with the company’s office in Dublin, Cronin molds holiday plans with American tour operators to make sure expectations are met.
The first stage is discovering what people actually want and what they expect from a holiday in Ireland. Then he must match those expectations with the services available, and providing the client with that information. That could mean balancing expectations with reality: One person’s quaint is rural seclusion; for another customer that adjective equals a five-star hotel with room service.
That customized service has catered to everything from NFL touring groups to corporations hoping to let their sales reps greet the year 2000 in Irish style. Whatever the schedule, Cronin says, the base product remains constant.
“We’re very proud of Ireland,” he said. “It’s very fulfilling that what we sell is guaranteed Irish. It’s not really a job. It’s like taking someone into your house. You always take them into the best room in the house.”
In a highly competitive tourism industry, customizing vacations means staying on top of changes. In addition to seeing a growth in the number of clients wanting to see the country with a car and private driver, Cronin says golf cruise and corporate trips have also expanded, mainly due to the improvement in services in Ireland and the increased trade and exchange between the U.S. and Ireland and America. Ireland is a the ideal gateway for companies doing business with Europe, he said.