Time for a tour on an old-time bus

NATANGA SMITH, natangasmith@nationnews.com

Added 17 July 2016

nicholas-rose-and-buses-071716

Nicholas Rose in front the three buses. (Picture by Shaka Mayers.)

SHE HA AN ALLURE Nicholas Rose couldn’t resist. That right tinge of blue. The calming sounds she made, the excitement of being around her was what he wanted everyday.

“Her” was the Caribbean Sea, but while he still harbours love for her he has found a greater purpose.

Nicholas is managing the Bajan Open Bus tour operations.

Nicholas, 34, has been in the tourism industry for 16 years.

He started out doing summer jobs with Tiami Catamaran, down by the Bridgetown Port.

“It started from there. I was a crewman onboard the catamarans. I loved the sea. I worked for about three summers, “ he said.

nicholas-rose-071716The former student of St Patrick’s Roman Catholic and St Lucy Primary Schools, and Mapps College (which he didn’t finish), is the recipient of the 2016 Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association Direct Tourism Service Supervisor Of The Year award for his contribution.

Nicholas said the call of the sea was strong so he came back to Tiami.

“I was a tour guide on the catamarans. Took the visitors out to swim with the turtles, snorkelling and so on.”

He then went to Adventureland Tours and spent a year. He then went to England to “find himself”. He returned home and worked with Island Safari as a driver and tour guide for two years.

“I went back to the catamarans again. I love interacting with people and I love the sea so it was a win-win.”

A phone call from his boss Martin Ince (of Foster and Ince) changed his life.

“He called me and made a pitch and asked what I thought. I said,’We can do something with this.”

The “this” was taking the then 60-year-old open bus, a way of transportation in olden Barbados, and turning it into a tour bus.

“It was the Rocklyn bus, the last of its kind on the island. Banks Breweries had it as a tour bus and then we took it over in late 2013.”

Nicholas was to spearhead the operation, having free rein to challenge his artistic side.

The plan was to retrofit the bus and take people to the beach, do some night hops, going to some bars, but it grew into something bigger.

“Everyone loved the bus and the tours but wanted variety now. So I created three additional tours to the two Mr Ince had given me, to make it five.”

Nicholas was receptionist, tour guide, bus cleaner, and rum punch mixer, music provider, singer, mechanic and supervisor, with one driver, Christopher Maxwell. 

Within a few months he added a second bus and more staff.

The fleet is now a complement of three – Progressive, Elite and the Rocklyn.

The buses are painted in red, green and yellow and when the convoy is out it is a spectacle.

“We travel in a certain colour pattern,” explained Nicholas, adding: “That is a sight to see . . . . I don’t drive the bus as you need a special licence to do that, but I fill in as one of the tour guides.”

As a tour guide Nicholas has to be on point with the history of the island, and takes great pleasure in teaching visitors and even some locals.

 “The look of the bus is keeping to the original look (yellow with red trim). For safety reasons we had to put on another side. The Rocklyn bus (named after the Rocklyn Bus Company) had one open side on the right side and bench style seating. There were tarps on the side in case rain fell, which we still have.”

Its bus route was north to east.

There were some extra modifications and Rocklyn hit the road with cameras and an audio system. Inside all the buses are Bajan sayings such as “obzocky” and “wuhloss” and black and white photographs of the bus back in the days.

The other two buses in the fleet were made to replicate the Rocklyn bus.

“We wanted a modern bus with an old-time look. I went to Mr Ince, he said OK. L&N Manufacturing built it. The bus has a modern Izuzu truck chassis from Simpson Motors and they built the entire body on top of it.”

That was the Elite and the bus was dedicated to H. A. Tudor, another Bajan entrepreneur, and keeping with the colour scheme of the original bus (green and red trim). This bus route was on the western side of the island.

Business was booming so he approached Mr Ince to commission a third bus.

That was finished last year November and named Progressive (red with yellow trim) and keeping, again, to what the bus used to look like. This bus used to run along the South Coast.

Nicholas said they have big plans in place for the 50th anniversary, which he is keeping close to this chest.

Nicholas said the sky is the limit but his dream is to have the buses be a household name.

“I now want to make it regionally. I want to see them throughout the Caribbean and we have some parties in the other islands interested.”

Nicholas said he had a bit of a challenge getting into the hotel market. So they went back to the drawing board to revamp their tours and offerings.

“As a new company we have teething issues. We are learning as we go along. What works and what doesn’t. What we can and cannot do.”

Nicholas says the three buses run seven days a week (8 a.m. to midnight) and they are fully booked right through to September.

They have branched into the wedding market, doing 10 to 15 in the last year and a half.

Nicholas has a passion, commitment and the willingness to help the business grow and likes feedback from his clients (Japan, Alaska, Switzerland. Germany and more).

He was taken by surprise by the award from the BHTA, but is pleased.

“I love what I do. And when I get rave reviews on Trip Advisor it makes my day brighter.”

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