Enjoying Bermuda: The South African rugby team enjoy their trip on the Fun Bus. *Photo supplied
Enjoying Bermuda: The South African rugby team enjoy their trip on the Fun Bus. *Photo supplied

Everyone’s enjoying a laugh as they relax on their tour of Bermuda. The wide smiles is a clear indicator that Paul Chambers’ business idea is a good one.

He started the Fun Bus last October as preparation for the 2014 tourist season. One of the first groups the Fun Bus escorted was the South African team for the World Rugby Classic. He hopes the Fun Bus will be a huge hit with tourists this coming season.

He spoke with Don Burgess about the fun bus.

What was your first job?

When I left school I didn’t have a clue as to what to do so I went into a retail management training programme. 

What did you learn from your first job that you have been able to use for the rest of your life?

People skills — customer service. I learned that I enjoyed working with people. 

What played into your decision to go into this business?

I was looking for an opportunity to be involved in the tourist industry. I had a whole series of conversations, including with William Spriggs (Somerset Economic Empowerment Zone officer), looking for a gap in the market. There are provisions for bus service but not in the way that we could do it. There’s no problem with the volume of lift from Dockyard, but the majority of it is Government-sourced and it really just goes to Horseshoe Bay. I was looking at some specialist niche visitor locations that we wanted to put some fun into it with a guided tour. I was looking for it to be a mix-and-match so that we just don’t go to the Zoo. We do go to the Zoo on the bus, but on the way back we go on their boat. 

How does the trip to the Zoo work?

They have their own 45-seater boat, which is more than big enough for us because we’re limited to 38 seats. We go along south shore and give them a picturesque route. We take an hour to get to the zoo and along the way explain about our funny-coloured houses, why we have white roofs, stop at Church Bay to take a photograph, stop at Somerset Bridge and explain its fame. Once we get them into Flatts, we hand them over. They will have 2.5 hours there with a light lunch. We come back with a guided tour with their captain on their boat. That is just one tour of about six or seven tours that we offer.

How did the BEDC help you?

They were incredibly helpful with advice. We haven’t had any financial assistance, but we didn’t ask for that. I was more interested in understanding employment legislation, corporate responsibility, marketing opportunities, contacts they have that I may not have and just general advice. Most of it has been from William. He gave me practical advice on establishing and managing a Business in Bermuda. I know how to do it in the UK, but clearly there are some marked differences. 

What’s the best advice the BEDC has given you?

Marketing, but everything they have told me is incredibly useful. 

Why did you choose Somerset as your location?

I live in Somerset. We park it at the Somerset Country Squire whoI have a close working relationship with. We’ll be bringing people into the Squire as well. It also has the added advantage of being close to Dockyard so it doesn’t take us an hour and a half to get to work in the morning.

Do you have any plans for expansion?

We’re shortly going to get a second bus, which will probably live down at the east end because that’s where it will mainly service. We’re looking at having at least two buses. 

How are you gearing up for the cruise ship season?

I’ve formed a strong relationship with Island Tour Centre. They have a booth at Dockyard. They have great links on the cruise ship and with concierges around the island. I’m using professional expertise that already exists, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’ll cover Harbour Nights, when it’s appropriate and we’ll do late night bar hops into Hamilton along Front Street. 

If Government could change one law that would be of help to your business, what would that be?

This isn’t really a law, but if we could loosen up some of the bureaucratic administration. From my experience, I had possession of my bus in April last year and couldn’t use it until October because of the required bureaucracy from TCD. 

If you were to give someone else a piece of advice who was interested in starting their own business, what would that be?

Have a clear idea as to what you want to do, then seek professional advice. Get as much of it as you can. Whether it’s the BEDC, whether it’s an accountant, or a lawyer. There’s no substitute for good professional advice.