Member Spotlight with David Douglas, Owner of Derrie Danders Walking & Audio Tours

Provide a description of your Tourism offering

I run Derrie Danders Walking and Audio Tours, based in the historic city of Derry/Londonderry, though I can guide tours throughout the North West region, with a particular love for Downhill and the Binevenagh area.

I am a Level 3 Qualified Member of Tour Guides NI, and I offer a range of politically neutral historical tours. I obviously cover the popular topics of the City’s Walls and Murals but I have also developed a range of specialized history tours including; Wonders of the Waterside, Ulster Scots/Scots Irish connections, Blue Plaques of the Maiden City (which will be part of the Embrace a Giant Spirit Experience Range), Shirt Factories Heritage and a Musical Mystery Tour. I can be flexible and customize my tours by topic and time to suit your group’s needs.

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

Very mixed. Obviously overall numbers were much lower for visitors and very few internationals.

While it was great to welcome staycationers from throughout the UK and Ireland to the city, most of which were first time visitors, they were much more price sensitive than international guests.

Also, because of the uncertainties over Covid many visitors did not risk booking in advance, so the scheduled tours of the city did better than the pre-booked guides like myself.

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

1) Are we actually in post-covid yet? – Suggest we are still only beginning of the end until more restrictions are lifted.

2) More price sensitivity from local/regional visitors – focus was on what you were charging rather than what you offered. I have developed a range of lower cost flexible audio tours on the VoiceMap App to appeal to this demographic.

3) More collaboration with other tourism providers to offer an “experience” rather than simply a tour, both within the city and local region

4) Develop more of a niche or specialism in my tours as per range above.

5) Dealing with constant change in rules, guest numbers, cancellations etc.

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

Offering alternative lower cost products such as the audio tours, and a wider range of historical tours, and plans to make them more experiences rather than just walking tours. Also I can now do virtual video tours (I have a YouTube Channel) and offer zoom presentations for visitors who cannot travel, and also assisting with some Tour Guide training.

What are your hopes for 2022?

Firstly, actually meeting some of my international guests who booked in 2019 for the summer of 2020 and have loyally brought forward their business to the summer of 2022.

Secondly, moving my business onto a more full-time basis, as due to the lack of income from tourism, I had to spend more time than expected in my other profession as an accountant.

Thirdly getting greater access to the international guests and tour operator markets and marketing my business to clients who want the more detailed quality experience when they visit the city and region.

Finally, encourage more visitors to”Linger longer in Londonderry and enjoy a dander around Derry”, (preferably with Derrie Danders Walking and Audio Tours, of course).