Tanzanian safari guides to register, get licensed

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.

8 Responses

  1. Standards of guiding vary tremendously in Tanzania, from real generalists to the specialists in an activity, an area or a subject. Training is all important and for many years certain safari companies have conducted excellent courses for their employees. Today there are also independent, open to all, courses of high quality that hire in experts in many subjects.
    Guides do need a basic knowledge and understanding of many subjects before they are hired and many operators seek out such dedicated individuals.

    I believe that licensed safari/tour companies should be encouraged to train their staff or finance their guides to attend independent courses in the off season. Many independent or freelance guides are attending these courses and financing their studies themselves. The internet is an extra ordinary tool, the available books on ecology etc truly extensive. Sharing is the key, pooling the combined knowledge is vital.

    The greatest gift we can give is teaching someone how to teach themselves, how to choose from the courses available, how to find out more, to seek sponsorship to attend the chosen course. Sound and unbiased advice to guides is needed to encourage openness and standards. And guides themselves need to share their guide training experiences between themselves. Some courses on offer are very basic, some are an in-depth and an ongoing exploration of real standards that can encourage further study, improve skill base and an important door to better understanding the complex world of hosting visitors in Tanzania.

    It is important to have competing courses to raise standards. Not State set and controlled standards, the subject is too complex and needs to be driven by competing industry forces as is the case with hotels, camps and lodges.

    Guides/operators can compare notes, experiences and choose the training direction themselves. If a guides’ employer conducts very few or just basic training courses then that company should seek out a course of quality and integrity, one with a future that is respected by guides seeking more skills. The internet is providing that opportunity for visitors.

    Tanzania needs an industry that competes for visitors within Africa, competes with Kenya, Zambia and Namibia, an industry that offers guests a broad range of experiences and depth, a range of standards and facilities to cater for all pockets and standards of guiding, hotels, camps, wilderness extremes or Lodge comforts.

    If the industry is regulated too much it will create a bland product that does not allow for the private sector initiatives and imagination to develop into the best destination in Africa.

    Tanzania is blessed with visitor attractions but almost 90% of tourism visits only a small part of the country. This industry needs to have more freedom to develop not more regulation. The Parks are becoming crowded in some areas. Tourism needs to develop away from the popular Parks to the bountiful variety of fascinating locations available. Many such places spring to mind.

    Kitulo, Udzungwa, Kondoa, Mbeya, Lake Rukwa, The Usambara and other Estern Arc Mountains, The Maasai Steppe, the many forest reserves and the so called Game Controlled and Wildlife Management areas. The hunting industry’s hold over many of these areas is hindering needed expansion and job opportunities.

    Do not restrict guiding to the big 5 or the bland roundabout tourism of the crowded areas that is in danger of giving Tanzania a bad name. Be imaginative and proud!
    Train your guides to specialize, some will speak fluent French or Russian, some Chinese. Others will be insect experts or know more about Zanzibar’s fascinating history than almost any one else. Some will be business experts taking possible investors on safari or excellent wildlife photographers helping guests to better their skills. The list of subjects and specialized skills is truly extensive and all standards of training courses should be encouraged to develop, to flourish.

    Teaching people who want to be better guides is also a skill.
    There are many bird experts out there. Some are good teachers, some are not!
    Some of those good teachers are not good with visitors!

    Allow a competing industry and a competing teaching trade to compete.

  2. I was on a nightmare safari with my naughter in April with Kiboko safaris.(found out later it isn’t a registered company) The owner and driver was always drunk, the car broke down 6 times including a broken radiator which had to be driven to another city to be fixed. Because of the breakdowns and the guide/owner leaving us in camp to get drunk we were most of the time driving to get from one park to another in the night illegally, had to bribe post guards to get in/out. He was so drunk one day that he couldn’t stay on the road and I had to insist on getting out and had to hire another driver to come from Arusha to pick us up. He was verbally abuse to us, the hotel owner and the new driver. How and where do I report him and is there anyway I can get some money back for this nightmare trip?

    1. You can approach the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (google their contacts) and the Tanzania Tourist Board (again, google their contacts) as the company is not apparently a member of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators TATO. Report them to the ministry, licensing section and explain what has happened on your safari, best with details on witnesses from the camps or lodges to corroborate your side of the story.
      Thank you for reading my blog.

    2. Dear Sue, unfortunately this is not the first time I’ve heard of such an experience and it is awful to think that someone’s holiday funds are wasted like this. Many Tanzanian guides/companies will be horrified to hear of yet another terrible incident. I would write to The Arusha Times and The Citizen newspapers (goggle contacts) here as well as our Minister of tourism. I would also recommend that you follow up on a regular basis. In your letter to the newspapers, ask that The Minister of Tourism personally investigates this matter. Recent sackings in that ministry will hopefully have cleared the air and newly appointed officials need to hear of such experiences. Good luck !

  3. Tanzania Guides should be respectful, knowledgeable, patient, honest, friendly, experienced drivers and more for a trip to be successful. It is good to make sure these rules are followed and tourism industry is improved to avoid situations like those of Sue Anderson