By SYDNEY MORWENG
The International Tourists Guide Day has become synonymous with those interested in pursuing the Tourist Guide career.
As a build up to the celebration on February 21, Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk visited Tulbagh, Church Street a picturesque town with thick, rich history to remind the locals of the importance of preserving culture and what tourist guide stands for.
The Minister’s visit not only paid tribute to the role that professional tour guides play as brand ambassadors, but emphasized the importance of using registered tour guides only.
“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,” said the Minister.
The National Department of Tourism is committed to promote and professionalize tourist guiding in South Africa, and is joining forces with other role players to establish national task team such as South African Police Service (SAPS), Home Affairs, the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency, metro police forces and some municipalities in an effort to combat illegal guiding.
The Department has developed the integrated tourist guide registration system, currently in a pilot stage, to fast-track registration of guides as well as to provide 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 disseminated via local radio stations and workshops.
“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,” says the Minister.
To qualify, one needs to undergo training from a service provider accredited to the Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Education and Training Authority (THETA).
Locals can obtain more information from provincial registrars.
“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,” said Van Schalkwyk.
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, he said.
The Minister went on to say:” The strategy to professionalize tourist guiding in South Africa is now in place. Tourist guide associations and all other key stakeholders in the tourism family 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.”
Already, the Department is engaging with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to discuss the harmonization of training standards across the region.
This move will present opportunities for registered guides to extend their services across the borders.
An initiative by the local tourism bureau had seen the training of a group of petrol attendants in their local tourism offerings. This would give them an opportunity to be brand ambassadors for their town.
When visitors stop at the filling station, they are now equipped to give tourism advice.
The Minister commended them for their commitment, enthusiasm and winning attitude.
After all, while not everyone can be a tour guide, everybody can be a brand ambassador for this country.
Mpho Moeti, chief registrar at Gauteng Tourism Authority said this year, they will be embarking on a campaign to encourage the public, and particularly youth’s to consider tourists guide as a career.