NEW RULES FOR TANZANIAN TOUR GUIDES AIMED TO IMPROVE QUALITY
Under a recently launched new set of regulation will it become mandatory for tour guides in Tanzania to register and get licensed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The measure is expected to come into effect in the next financial year, to allow for time to work out the logistics and modalities for the measure, which according to an Arusha based source is to improve the quality of our guides and make them more professional.
The Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism met members of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators in Arusha last week during a meeting to discuss a range of issues concerning the private sector and explained to them the rationale behind this latest regulatory measure.
Requirements presently include having a certificate from a recognized training institution in tour guiding, experience as a guide, training in first aid and a valid driving permit. A regular source from Arusha added his opinion to the new measures by saying: We should not just look at these minimal requirements if we really want to improve the quality of our guides. Those guides should form their own professional body to assess and grade members, setting exam standards for attaining certain levels of competence like knowledge of flora and fauna, ability to identify birds, history, culture, geography and then grant them categories along those lines. The better qualified one is, the more money they can make with their fees. There should be an entrance level for guides, like starters, and I am not talking of what paper they carry from an institution or school but how they perform in the field. It has to be a panel of their peers to judge competence. Then one can attain higher levels after that, or if found worthy and able and skilled they can go straight to higher levels once they have passed exams.
I know in Kenya they have a professional safari guide association and they give their members the chance to sit for regular exams and then get bronze, silver and gold status. That determines the level of their fees, the best get paid a lot more of course. We need to look at that, or how for instance guides are graded in South Africa, where they have a similar system. The guide association administers exams, assesses knowledge and presentation and then gives them their rating and grading. So finally we have made a good start but it will take a lot more to achieve the objective to make Tanzanian guides reach the top of their profession and give the quality services tourists expect. Right now, you can find certain safari tours where the tourists know more about birds than their driver guide does or even their bird guide does. So if we improve that part, our tourists will know that Tanzania was worth visiting not only for the parks and all but for the experience and competence of all the staff they were in contact with during a visit.
Others in periodic contact with this correspondent also commented, saying that the new regulations will help to create specialized guides for birding, culture, history and other fields while the regular safari drivers, who often act as guides too at the same time, can acquire more knowledge and skills when undergoing training courses. One source in particular appealed to employers, i.e. the owners of safari companies, to come on board and give their staff the chance to train during the off peak season as it would benefit the customer satisfaction and bring more repeat business to the country.
No comments, in view of this being a weekend, could be obtained from the EAC head quarters in Arusha if there are any plans in the making to have a region wide accreditation and quality standard for guides, similar to the East African Community wide catalogue of criteria for grading and classification of hotels and hospitality businesses. Watch this space.