September - Member Spotlight with Blue Badge Guide Martin McAuley

Posted 21 Sep, 2021

Description of your Tourism offering.

I am a Blue badge tourist guide, the highest level of certification from the Institute of Tourist Guides, with the Northern Ireland Tourist Guiding Association. A Blue badge covers all of Northern Ireland but my speciality is Irish Whiskey and, alongside all the regular guiding offerings I give a Whiskey walk and tasting experience in Belfast. Mainly I sell B2B as I find it easier to get customers in that sector.

Describe how the Summer 2021 season has been for your business?

    Very poor. 2020 was non-existent with zero tourists and zero business to fall back on. 2021 has seen an improvement with the Cruise ships making a return, albeit small numbers. The push for “Staycations” is not really beneficial to Guides as it is a really hard sell and competition is fierce, meaning prices are low. Once again, as happened in 2020, there has been almost zero support, financially, for self employed Guides.

    List five things that were different for you in the high season post covid pandemic.

      1) Guiding was at the whim of individual companies, with different restrictions on groups according to the company.

      2) Having to do Lateral flow tests, before specified times, every single day you are working.

      3) Almost all of the visitors are from the UK

      4) Venues having restrictions on them: Control measures, limited opening, change of staff, pricing changes

      5) Having to survive on almost zero income

      Based on these experiences, what have you learned to do differently?

        Be more patient and look to other areas for a source of income. During 2020 myself and another guide started hosting an online show, @IrishWhiskeyReview, that has been going well. So much so that we are looking for sponsorship!

        What are your hopes for 2022?

        That foreign tourism opens up to allow guests to return. At NITGA we very much see ourselves as ambassadors for Northern Ireland, showing the place off to the many people who have never been here before.