‘FOR­EIGN TOURIST GUIDES’ DON’T EX­IST

New Straits Times - - Opinion - C.Y. MING Kuala Lumpur

SEV­ERAL terms in the tourism and travel in­dus­try are wrongly used or mis­un­der­stood, thus caus­ing con­fu­sion and re­sult­ing in the loss of time and money.

For ex­am­ple, the gov­ern­ment was spot-on in nam­ing the Min­istry of Tourism and Cul­ture (Mo­tac), and not the Min­istry of Tourism, Hos­pi­tal­ity and Cul­ture.

Hos­pi­tal­ity, as an in­dus­try, en­com­passes ho­tels and restau­rants.

Th­ese two ma­jor sec­tors, plus shop­ping, ac­counted for 71.5 per cent of tourism re­ceipts from for­eign vis­i­tors last year.

How­ever, lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties are fond of of­fer­ing tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity cour­ses, which are wide and aca­demic.

This results in more than 90 per cent of th­ese grad­u­ates not work­ing in the tourism in­dus­try, as they lack the skills and knowl­edge to per­form well.

Those who wish to work in ho­tels should study hotel man­age­ment, and those in­ter­ested in work­ing in the kitchen should pick up culi­nary arts.

In­stead of us­ing “tourism com­pa­nies”, it is bet­ter to call them out­bound tour com­pa­nies or op­er­a­tors, and their lo­cal coun­ter­parts, in­bound tour com­pa­nies or op­er­a­tors.

The term “lo­cal tour guides” is wrongly used. There is no such thing as “for­eign tourist guides”.

In Malaysia, the of­fi­cial term is “tourist guides”, with the term “tour guides” used in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Which­ever is bet­ter de­pends on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the job.

“Tourist guides” seems to sug­gest that tourists need to be guided, whereas “tour guides” places em­pha­sis on the tour, which could be more mean­ing­ful with commentaries.

I asked thou­sands of peo­ple in the tourism in­dus­try and hun­dreds of tourist guides, and none could de­scribe the job of a tourist guide.

I asked for re­sponses from par­tic­i­pants when con­duct­ing train­ing ses­sions, and there could be 10 ver­sions.

Al­though the an­swers were cor­rect, none was com­plete.

But when I asked what the job of a post­man was, the first re­spon­dent would al­ways give the cor­rect answer, which would be ac­cepted by the group.

In Malaysia, most “city tourist guides” are per­mit­ted to guide tourists in the coun­try.

How­ever, it would not be prac­ti­cal for them to travel with a tour group across the South China Sea.

In the case of a tour group trav­el­ling by bus from Kuala Lumpur to Pe­nang or Kuala Tereng­ganu, the same tourist guide would be with the group through­out, con­duct­ing sight­see­ing tours in Ipoh or Kuan­tan.

Lo­cal tourist guides based there would be con­sid­ered by­standers.

An­other cat­e­gory is “lo­cal na­ture tourist guides” who can guide tourists only in the nat­u­ral ar­eas where they were se­lected and had their li­censes reg­is­tered.

As of Aug 31, 2015, the num­ber of reg­is­tered guides was 15,405.

There are no “for­eign tourist guides”, as tourist guides can only prac­tise in the coun­try where they are li­censed. Tour lead­ers are ap­pointed by the com­pany or­gan­is­ing an over­seas tour for a group.

In coun­tries where tourist guides are not li­censed, ex­pe­ri­enced tour lead­ers dou­ble up as tourist guides.

There are no “in­ter­na­tional tourist guides”, as mis­tak­enly said by top aca­demics run­ning the Fac­ulty for Hos­pi­tal­ity and Tourism of a pub­lic univer­sity.

They wanted to con­duct an “in­ter­na­tional tourist guide course” years ago for grad­u­at­ing stu­dents.

As only in­sti­tutes li­censed by Mo­tac and ac­cred­ited with the Depart­ment of Skills Devel­op­ment can con­duct tourist guide cour­ses, the two aca­demics, one with a PhD in tourism and the other a mas­ter’s, were look­ing for col­lab­o­ra­tions.

Upon hear­ing “in­ter­na­tional tourist guides”, I knew they were re­fer­ring to tour lead­ers.

Any­one could have con­ducted the course, and there was no need to drive far to see me.

Many in the travel sec­tor are not much bet­ter, as I have to ask ques­tions be­fore un­earthing their busi­ness, which they should have ar­tic­u­lated in their pro­mo­tion.

Very few knew what Tour Op­er­at­ing Busi­ness and Travel Agency Busi­ness was, the sys­tem un­der which their com­pa­nies are li­censed.

Mo­tac grants three li­cences for tours and travel busi­nesses.

Travel agen­cies, which are mainly agen­cies for air­lines, ho­tels and tour whole­salers, are li­censed un­der “tick­et­ing”.

New com­pa­nies are ini­tially granted “in­bound” to pro­mote in­bound and do­mes­tic tours be­fore “out­bound” is added, al­low­ing them to or­gan­ise tours to over­seas.

As for the for­eign tourists who vis­ited Malaysia last year, more than 90 per cent were in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers.

Those who ar­rived in groups booked their trans­fers and sight­see­ing ser­vices in ad­vance with lo­cal in­bound tour op­er­a­tors, who en­gaged the ser­vices of tourist guides.

The root cause of a flare-up in Sabah was over shop­ping com­mis­sions, since tour lead­ers and tourist guides of­ten make more money from this source than tour com­pa­nies profit from the same tour groups.

FILE PIC

Some tourists en­gage the ser­vices of lo­cal in­bound tour op­er­a­tors.

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