International visitors arriving for bus tours of Belfast this week were shocked to see their drivers wearing bulletproof vests.
Three employees of Allen’s Tours, including company director Ben Allen, were informed by police this week that they were under death threat.
Graffiti making allegations about drivers is also said to have appeared in the loyalist Sandy Row area of south Belfast.
Management of Allen’s Tours were unavailable for comment yesterday but it is understood that senior staff have been wearing bulletproof clothing while at work for several months.
Several of the firm’s drivers began to wear body armour under their uniforms this week. The sight has clashed with images of peace projected by government and tourism bodies.
Meanwhile, management of rival Belfast tour operators City Sightseeing last night said they too had been informed by police of threats to their lives.
Michael Johnston, a senior employee, said he had received two warnings in recent months that his life is under threat.
He said he was told one of the threats had been accompanied by a recognised loyalist paramilitary group’s codeword.
“This has being going on for some time now. I’ve lost count of how many times we have had to call the police over threats and attacks on our drivers,” he said.
Bus tours ferrying visitors to the North’s political and scenic landmarks have become a lucrative business in recent years.
Both Allen’s Tours and City Sightseeing operate from Castle Place in Belfast city centre offering tours in open-top buses.