“Being a tour guide allows you to extend your life’s joy” – Age is just a number when you work in tourism
Regardless of whether you’re fresh out of college or at a much later stage in life, a career in tourism can offer the most unexpected and enriching of experiences as well as a variety of flexible working and development options.
at Liddy first started to take an interest in the heritage of Dublin in the 1970s while working at Aer Lingus. “From travelling to various places I could see that Dublin had its own fantastic uniqueness but it was neglected as a tourist destination. Throughout the 1980s I started my own quiet campaign with a weekly column in the Irish Times on historic places in Dublin, accompanied by my own pen and ink drawings, which people began to collect in large numbers,” he recalls.
Over the years since, Dublin’s appeal for tourists grew and Liddy was one of the first to set up a dedicated walking tours company, in 2005. He has written ten books on the history of Dublin and held several exhibitions of his artworks capturing the city’s highlights and often overlooked areas. “I felt my job was to enjoy Dublin’s heritage for myself but also to share my personal excitement about it with other people,” he says.
“There is so much to see and history on every street, from Ireland’s oldest theatre, Smock Alley built in 1662, to the excavated remains of the 13 Century Isolde’s Tower discovered in 1993 and the first postbox to be painted green at Dublin Castle.”
Nowadays, aged 77, Liddy still occasionally gives tours on special request, but is largely focused on running Dublin Walking Tours as a business. Many of the 22 guides are in their fifties and sixties, having retired from one career and looking for a new one. There is a former executive of the Office of Public Works, two actors, an ex-facilities manager and a man who previously owned his own construction firm.
Discovering a new passion
“Being a tour guide allows you to extend your life’s joy. It just takes hold of you and every day is a learning day. People discover a passion they didn’t know they had and can’t stop reading history books once they’re involved to find out more,” says Liddy.
“Meeting different people every day is revitalising and giving the tours is great exercise – much better than sitting at home or seeing the same three people on a golf course! Visitors minds’ are usually blown by the depth and breadth of history and culture in the city, which makes the job very rewarding.”
Dublin Walking Tours runs a preparatory course for new guides during the winter, covering the history of Ireland and Dublin, the techniques of tour guiding, presentation skills and 20 or 30 actual tours of the city. The company’s offering includes tours of best-known landmarks, hidden corners, Viking and medieval Dublin as well as tours with literary, architectural and rebellion themes.
“With any of our tours, we’re very focused on them being lighthearted and interactive. It’s more about story telling than history telling. We always try to bring in some human interest,” notes Liddy.
Tours take two to four hours and guides choose what days and hours they will work on a week-by-week basis. “This level of flexibility means there is more of a sense of doing something you enjoy – whenever suits you and your lifestyle,” says Liddy.
Mindful of the general desire for better work-life balance in the industry at the moment, Trigon Hotels has made considerable efforts to facilitate this for its diverse workforce of 250 people across its two properties in Cork.
“We are currently trialing four days of ten-hour shifts and younger employees in particular find the extra day off works well for them. If there are two employees in the same family, we try to give them opposite shifts to accommodate childcare. In the past three months, we have adapted our rosters so they are issued a month rather than a week in advance so employees can plan their lives better,” explains Kathleen Linehan, strategic director of human resources (HR), who took on the position three years ago after 13 years working in manufacturing.
With 30 different nationalities employed at Trigon Hotels, there is a good mix of ages in all departments. The workforce is mostly made up of Millennials and Centennials, but there is also a lot of Baby Boomers and some people have been with the business for 20-30 years.
Opportunities for all generations
“Older people have joined us in night porter and kitchen porter roles and mothers have come to work with us part-time. The older people bring great life experience and a calm and patient mindset, which is a steadying influence for younger people,” says Linehan.
“Equally, younger team members have brought so much to the older generation, from teaching them about Snapchat and TikTok to their enthusiasm for trying new things such as our projects with our charity partner Cope Foundation.”
One of these projects recently was the building of a sensory garden on waste ground near the foundation. “A lovely memory for me is how younger employees persuaded Noel McDonagh – a kitchen porter in his sixties and with us over 20 years – to get involved. Normally he wouldn’t have mixed with different departments and suddenly there he was working side by side with the executive team. It gave him a huge lease of life and he now has a framed picture of us all in the garden hanging in the kitchen,” says Linehan.
The partnership with Cope Foundation led to Trigon Hotels hiring six people with intellectual disabilities as part of its [email protected] programme in the past year, she adds. “This has been of fantastic benefit to our team as we adapted in terms of training the new recruits and integrating them. They are amazing team members and absolutely thriving.”
Listening to employees and open communication are core aspects of the culture at Trigon Hotels. The HR department runs two employee surveys a year, as well as focus groups and highly engaging team meetings and social events with prize giving. (One employee, Mil Burke, won a weekend away and a day off at an event a week after joining as a breakfast chef. A year later, Trigon Hotels is now supporting her in doing a chef programme with Munster Technological University.)
“We take employee feedback very seriously in terms of areas we can improve on. For example, over the past six months we have revamped our development programmes to accommodate different needs and wants. Employees wanted to see more focus on understanding each other, social skills, presentation skills and social media training,” says Linehan.
“Drawing on all of the employee feedback, we developed a new, interactive learning and development platform where training is mixed with video content and reading materials and is accessible to everybody.”
Ireland boasts a world-renowned tourism industry with exciting roles across the country. If you are looking for a new opportunity in tourism to suit your passions and lifestyle, visit Live Jobs at tourismcareers.ie.
If you are a tourism business recruiting new staff, explore our marketing tools, expert tips and supports here. Check out Fáilte Ireland’s wide range of Tourism Careers supports at failteireland.ie/tourismcareers.