The Blue Badge Training Course, which is the highest qualification in tourist guiding in the UK is being delivered this September in Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Tourist Guide Association.
NITGAis the professionalguiding association for Northern Ireland, established in 1992, the same year the first Northern Irish Blue Badge Guides qualified at Queen’s University Belfast. In September 2016, the association will be returning to Queen’s University, to deliver the first Blue Badge Course in NI for 12 years.
The course will be accredited by the Institute of Tourist Guiding (ITG)which is the first port of call in the UK for those wishing to become qualified tour guides.The new course aims to meet the needs of the growing tourism industry in Northern Ireland, and the current shortage of guides –especially those speaking a foreign language. The latest tourist figures show an increasein tourism of around 9% in the early part of 2015.
The Course Director, Dr. Tim Conway, who is a member of NITGA, and former chairman said: “We are seeing an ever growing demand for the services of guides in Northern Ireland, with more and more tour operators approaching NITGA for both tour guides and tour managers for incoming groups. We have also seen an increase in the number of cruise ships arriving in Northern Ireland, at Belfast, and also at other ports such as Portrush, Bangor and Derry/Londonderry.
As a professional association of guides, we really want to ensure that we can meet that demand with quality, well trained guides who can be exceptional ambassadors for Northern Ireland –it’s all about providing a positive memorable visitor experience, and with training to the standard set by the Institute of Tourist Guiding, we believe the new course will help us achieve that objective.”The Northern Ireland Blue Badge Syllabus was approved by ITG last year, and they will also be the course examiners.
Students will study a diverse range of topics including history, politics, architecture, geology, agriculture, arts, regional economics, folklore etc. There will be 28 lectures delivered by professionals who are experts in their field of research. In addition, there will be practical tuition on all aspects of tour guiding –with students visiting all parts of Northern Ireland by coach. The final exam will include three written examinations and four practical, including a walking tour that will be examined in Derry City where the course’s important Communications Seminars will take place.
Speaking about the new NI Course, the president of ITG said: “The Institute of Tourist Guiding was created some 15 years ago to take over the administration of the prestigious blue and green badge guide programme. The Institute represents and promotes the guiding profession, accredits training courses, examines candidates and awards the blue and green badges. It is responsible for maintaining the highest standards within our profession, and its qualifications have a worldwide reputation for excellence.”
“The Institute is proud to support a new training course for prospective guides in Northern Ireland and look forward to working and supporting NITGA in the delivery of this new course. NITGA is currently accepting applications until Monday 20th June. Applicants’ suitability will be assessed through an interview and presentation, and the selection panel will include industry professionals who employ guides in Northern Ireland. It is expected there will be a maximum number of 24 students, and the course providers are particularly keen to accept language speakers with the right skill set.”
“Interviews will take place in late June with a two-day induction in August. The course will run from September 2016 to Easter 2017, with exams taking place late April 2017. If you would like any further information, please contact [email protected] or visit our website www.nitga.co.uk. We will also have updates via our social media Twitter: @nitouristguides and Facebook: NITouristGuides “