Minister urges tourists to only use registered tour guidesFebruary 8th, 2011 by H&R | Categories: government, industry, tourism, training
In the lead up to International Tourist Guide Day on 21 February, minister of tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk visited Tulbagh for a guided tour through the town’s historic Church Street today (8 February). His message was to urge tourists to use only registered, knowledgeable tour guides and outline his department’s efforts to promote the career of tourist guiding.
The minister also paid tribute to the role that professional tour guides play as brand ambassadors. The National Department of Tourism has committed to the promotion and professional recognition of tourist guiding as a career in South Africa, and has joined forces with other organisations to boost this initiative.
The department has developed the integrated tourist guide registration system, currently in a pilot stage. The system is designed to fast-track registration of guides as well as provides the public and the tourism industry with any information pertaining to guiding. This includes an updated database of legally registered guides. Information will soon be broadcast via local radio stations and through workshops.
The minister says of the initiative: “Tour guiding is fast becoming an attractive career choice. Guides interact with people from all walks of life. It is therefore important that tour guides adequately acquaint themselves with all cultures.
“The most important characteristic for any aspiring guide, however, is definitely attitude. You need to have a passion for working with people, and a desire and willingness to learn.
“The tour guiding sector is vast and fascinating, and includes nature guiding, culture guiding and adventure guiding. To qualify, one needs to undergo training from a service provider accredited to the Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Education and Training Authority (THETA). For further information in this regard, all provinces have provincial registrars for tourist guide registration, who would also be able to provide brochures on the topic.
“At present, South Africa has more than 10 000 registered tour guides. One of the main reasons why we encourage you to use registered guides only is because the profession is regulated. The registrars are there to verify the certification of your guide.
“The profession is further governed by a code of conduct and a code of ethics. Therefore, by using registered tour guides, visitors may not only rest assured that they will receive a professional service, but will also have a built-in feedback mechanism,” explains van Schalkwyk.
The strategy to professionalise tourist guiding in South Africa is now in place and tourist guide associations and other involved organisations have made significant contributions to the strategy. An implementation plan will soon be completed, and the strategy’s recommendations will be implemented in the 2011/12 financial year.
The department is already engaging with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to discuss the integration of training standards across the region. This move will present opportunities for registered guides to extend their services into neighbouring countries.
In addition, a national task team that includes the South African Police Service, Department of Home Affairs, the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency, metro police forces and some municipalities has been established to combat illegal guiding.
During the course of the tour, the town of Tulbagh unveiled a further initiative by the local tourism bureau. A group of local petrol attendants has been trained in the region’s tourism offerings and are now brand ambassadors for the town. When visitors stop at the filling station, they are now equipped to provide tourism advice. The minister commended them for their commitment, enthusiasm and winning attitude.