Tour guides eye ILO training standards with caution
TOUR guides are sounding a sceptical note about an offer by the International Labour Organisation to introduce international training standards to their profession. They say it’s not yet clear whether or not their pay will increase accordingly.
The ILO is offering financial and technical support to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in upgrading the qualifications of Myanmar tour guides to ASEAN standards, U Aung Thu, deputy director of the ministry’s Tourism Training School, told The Myanmar Times on August 4.
The free flow of skilled labour throughout the region that will accompany entry into the ASEAN Economic Community will not apply to tour guides, he said. “Guides in ASEAN countries can’t work in other member countries. The industry recognises the need for standards, which is why we want to upgrade our guides’ skills,” U Aung Thu said.
“We will establish skill levels from 1 to 5, subject to an examination. According to the draft plan, once students have completed the two-month training course, they will be assigned a grade,” he said.
U Aung Thu said existing guides who lacked a ministry qualification had no need to worry about their jobs. “They can still work with tour companies depending on their qualifications and experience,” he said.
But U Ko Ko Latt, an experienced guide, said it was not clear how the system would work in practice. “We don’t know yet how much the guides will earn on the basis of their level. What difference will meeting ASEAN standards make? Can we tour other countries without hiring a local guide? We need to know more details,” he said.
According to the ILO and the tourism ministry, regional guides are assigned to level 1, assistant tour guides to level 2, national guides to level 3 and those who have completed Tourism Training School to level 4 status, he said, adding that the ILO’s survey sample of 55 guides out of 6000 employed nationwide was not sufficient.
“If they don’t guarantee the salary levels of existing guides, no one will cooperate with them,” said U Ko Ko Latt.
U Than Wai, another experienced guide, told The Myanmar Times, “I want to take more time to consider this project because it’s not reasonable to assign a student to level 4 just because they’ve completed the Tourism Training School course. We accept that the school can help upgrade skills, but that doesn’t apply to all guides,” he said.
The chair of the Myanmar Tourist Guides Association, U Aung Tun Lin, said his members wanted more details of the advantages and disadvantages of the new scheme and its long-term implications. He called on the ILO and the ministry to offer more detailed explanations.
“The ILO offered to help the ministry upgrade the qualifications of tour guides to raise standards, saying it would be a success if most guides accepted it. But if most guides don’t accept it, this will accomplish very little. It’s not yet clear what the attitude of the guides will be,” he said.