Tour guide hails globetrotter’s gospel

Mickey Cooper at the Columba to Conflict exhibition in the Gasyard Centre. (1109CTCAQ01)
Mickey Cooper at the Columba to Conflict exhibition in the Gasyard Centre. (1109CTCAQ01)

One of Derry’s most successful tour operators says around 70% of his clientele” came to us directly” because of TripAdvisor - the online travel guide that’s gospel for globetrotters.

Last week the ‘Journal’ carried a feature suggesting the site could be key for Derry and the North West in the months ahead, with an influx of visitors expected for City of Culture year in 2013.

Mickey Cooper, who runs Derry Blue Badge Guides and who coordinates Free Derry Tours, couldn’t agree more.

“In terms of bookings around 70% of our business is now coming directly from TripAdvisor,” Mickey, also well known as a Sinn Fein councillor, told the ‘Journal’ this week.

“Doing well on TripAdvisor is a massive boost. You could spend thousands on marketing and promotions and have nowhere near the impact that consistent five star ratings on Tripadvisor delivers.”

The travel advice site relies on ‘user generated’ comment and reviews and boasts some 50 million unique users a month.

Both the local tour companies have received the Tripadvisor excellence awards in recent weeks - awarded to recognise consistent five star ratings on the site.

“There’s an authenticity to TripAdvisor. It’s been absolutely brilliant for us,” Mickey says.

“We always make a point of asking people how they heard about us. Last year around 70% said they cam to us directly because of the reviews on TripAdvisor - it’s the best marketing tool of the lot.”

Mickey registered his tour guide business on the site just over 18 months ago - since then the Derry Blue badge Guide has achieved two TripAdvisor excellence awards. Last week Free Derry Tours also received the accolade - one also bestowed upon the Museum of free Derry in recent weeks. The awards are testament to the tourism offering in the area, Mickey says.

He says other businesses within the tourism and hospitality sector would be well advised to get on board ahead of the culture capital year.

“With the City of Culture coming, we know more business is on the way. Because of the way TripAdvisor works - real reviews from real travellers - you can’t let your standards drop for even a minute.”

He says the Bogside area is continuing to grow its tourism offering - his own company now employs ten qualified blue badge tour guides. Mickey says further expansion across the range of tourist related services is planned ahead of 2013.

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