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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 12:57 GMT
Tourist 'may now avoid Belfast'
Attacked bus
The tour bus was set alight
A Canadian tourist has said she would be reluctant to return to Belfast after her coach was burnt out in the south of the city.

It was the second attack within two weeks in the area on tour firm Paddywagon's distinctive green buses.

The bus was parked outside the Paddy's Palace youth hostel on Fitzwilliam Street in the university area.

The fire was reported late on Friday evening. The company said the two attacks cost more than 60,000.

Marketing manager Steve McPhelimy said: "We are getting nervous about bringing tourists to Belfast because we can't afford to take another hit like this."

The bus had been carrying 14 tourists from as far away as the US and Australia on a weekend trip to Belfast and Londonderry.

We just rode this bus yesterday, and it's mad to look at it like this
Petra Briene
Dutch tourist
The company has headquarters in Belfast and Dublin, and has been operating in Northern Ireland for more than 10 years.

Mr McPhelimy said he believed local vandals had set the bus alight.

He said loyalist representatives had assured him that they "support anyone bringing tourists into south Belfast".

"Every attack costs us 30,000 because the insurance company doesn't cover the full cost of the bus," he added.

'Hugely regrettable'

He criticised the Northern Ireland Tourist Board for not having been in contact with the company.

Orla Farren from the Tourist Board said the incident was "not the experience of the vast majority of our visitors".

"We have been receiving huge feedback about what a safe and secure destination Northern Ireland is and how it surpasses people's expectations," she said.

"It is hugely regrettable that one incident such as this can put people off coming back, because repeat business is so important."

Canadian tourist Julie Provancie, who had been travelling on the bus, said the incident had put her off returning to Belfast.

"This was the first day of our tour and we were in Belfast that night. Everything was fine," she said.

Burnt out bus
The burnt out remains of the inside of the bus

"The next day we were due to leave at 11 to go to Derry, but we were told that the bus had been burnt down and that we had to leave earlier than this.

"It was a kind of scary situation to wake up to - one day is fine and you have your bus there and you think you are in a safe area, and the next day you wake up to a burnt bus."

Dutch tourist Petra Briene said: "We saw it this morning and we were shocked - we just rode this bus yesterday, and it's mad to look at it like this."

She added: "I'd take the Paddywagon again, just to support them. It's great craic and harmless - I don't get why somebody would do this."

Damage caused to the vehicle

Vandals set fire to tourist bus
23 Jan 08 |  Northern Ireland

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