Tour de force

Tour de force

Robin Worsnop, the founder of Rabbie’s Small Tours, which has been expanding in London and Ireland, reflects on 2014 and looks ahead to next year

BQ: What kind of year have you had?
Robin: 2014 has been good for Rabbie’s though we didn’t grow as much as we planned and frustratingly we had to turn away quite a few customers, because we didn’t have enough capacity to either carry them or find them accommodation across the country. We’ve seen growth across all our divisions, significantly in London and Dublin and steady increases across Glasgow and Edinburgh.
BQ: What has been the highlight for your business?
Robin: The highlight this year has undoubtedly been the opening of our first Rabbie’s café and hub for our passengers and locals at the end of Princes Street in the stunning colonnaded Georgian building which is one of the bookends of Waterloo Place. The opening of this beautiful space to the public is a great addition to Edinburgh’s offering.

To see the Rabbie’s branded sign go up above the door at the beginning of April was a proud moment and a long distance away from Rabbie’s humble beginnings 21 years ago.

BQ: Were you busy during the Glasgow Games / Ryder Cup?
Robin: We didn’t expect to be busy during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup as events like these can interfere with our normal operations. I’m not complaining though because these events help showcase Scotland to the world and help with our long term growth plans. As it happened we were pleasantly surprised that business was largely unaffected.

BQ: What is 2015 looking like for you?
Robin: We are seeking to capitalise on the great exposure Scotland has had in 2014 from both the successful events mentioned and the worldwide attention Scotland received during the great democratic debate that took place this year. We are still seeing legacy from the 2012 Olympic Games and our operation from London is going from strength to strength. The Edinburgh café is still a work in progress and we are applying for a licence and hope to get that through and open next year and longer in the evening, perhaps as a tapas-style bar.

BQ: What are clients expecting these days?
Robin: They expect to be entertained and informed about Scotland – and on our other tours too. They want to see something authentic and they love meeting our driver /guides who really are the genuine characters who make what we do special. I know that our clients are surprised and delighted by their experiences.

BQ: You made a lot of investment this year, can you explain a bit more?
Robin: We’ve added another 15 Mercedes Sprinters for our fleet, each with 15 seats,
and this is an investment of nearly £1m. We bought a ruined house in Portree and turned it into a home-from-home for our tour drivers. We’ve also bought a more secure site in the north of Glasgow, which is safer for our people and vehicles.

BQ: Any famous celebs or unusual guests this year?
Robin: Are you talking about the bald business magazine editor who took our Highland trip to Inveraray?

BQ: You’ve also got another business which will be available during Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink? Can you tell us more?
Robin: I’m also the chairman of Mara Seaweed, which is bringing the flavour of the sea to our tables. It’s an ancient food for modern cooks and it is very healthy.

The company has been co-founded by Fiona Houson, Xa Milne, and seaweed man Rory MacPhee. Brilliant people and a business to watch. Several top chefs are now using the natural products for their Scottish recipes.