Tour guides eye ILO train­ing stan­dards with cau­tion

The Myanmar Times - - News - EI EI THU eiei­thu@mm­times.com

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.

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