A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life… Ken Martin chairperson, Tour Guides NI

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I am chairperson of Tour Guides Northern Ireland (Tour Guides NI). Previously I was on the steering group that had this original idea three years ago, and we now have a membership of over 100 guides. I manage the association by prioritising a ‘to-do’ list that is forever changing and is endless! Tourism is evolving and so is Tour Guides NI, which is a blend of experience and boundless innovative energetic ideas.

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I have been a tour guide for over 10 years, I am a Blue Badge Guide and a member of the Institute of Tourist Guiding. I have been involved in various roles in establishing an all-encompassing accredited tour guide association in Northern Ireland. Again, with help from TNI and UU/Belfast Met, we are now setting a new standard within tour guiding. I’ve always thought NI had a product which could be sold to everyone’s advantage.

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
Well the best part has been the success we have had in getting recognition as the body to speak to within tour guiding – we are the biggest, the best and the boldest! Tour guiding has evolved into all walks of life. Northern Ireland is unique; we are good at walking, talking, eating, drinking and thinking – no matter the weather. And we are friendly! The worst part is finding enough time to develop the product; there are a multitude of different kinds of tours that have yet to be rolled out, it’s simply a question of time.

WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR?
In a word – cohesion. But hopefully that is about to be addressed by a new grouping to bring all the different players to the ball game. And that is the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance. From my point of view within Tour Guides NI, the challenge is proper training, and again that is something we are very much encouraging and promoting.

OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
As chairperson, my day is taken up with the affairs of Tour Guides NI and these are generally marketing, media, funding, etc. and keeping up to date with the committee, who actually do the work; in particular our secretary. I also still tour guide, which takes me everywhere, so I am very fortunate to be in a job that I love. Again, it’s apportioning time to fit everything in but ‘if you want something done ask a busy man’… or woman (that was close!)

PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
Definitely establishing a tour guide pathway with UU/Belfast Met. It is vital that tour guides have the opportunity to become validated/accredited and be recognised as such; the TGNI Badge is the badge of the future.

BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE LOCAL SECTOR
Meeting so many different people, and surprising them with my knowledge; I guess it’s an ego trip. But Northern Ireland compares with anywhere else in the world, and we are still being discovered. Every season, TGNI members guide over 100,000 tourists and they love us! It’s very satisfying.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
Go out for a dander with Mary. Unwind up in the Belfast Hills, and in particular Divis; come rain or shine, it is a magical place. There’s a wonderful view over Belfast with to the left Lough Neagh and to the right the Mournes. What else could one ask for?

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I am one of 10 children (five sisters) I have a twin brother, I don’t drink alcohol and I am as happy as can be.

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