The Irrawaddy

Local tour guides want ministry to take action against foreign operators

Mandalay – The Myanmar Tourist Guides Association is planning to call on the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism to crack down on the employment of foreign guides by tour operators.

The chairman of the association told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the foreign tour guides, especially those serving the Korean market, were denying local licensed Korean-speaking guides the opportunity to work.

“Most of the Korean tour agencies use native speakers as tour guides, so the local Korean-speaking guides do not have a chance to get work,” said association chairman U Aung Tun Lin.

In 2012, the association raised the issue of Korean tour guides working in the country with the ministry, however, the tour operators have continued to use foreigners as tour guides.

“Back then, the ministry issued a notice and the agencies hired English-speaking guides, instead of Korean speaking local guides,” he explained.

“As the Tourist Guide Association, we will submit another complaint to the ministry to protect the job security of local licensed guides and to ensure there are proper rules and regulations on the employment of unlicensed foreign tour guides,” he said.

The Korean tourist market has blossomed since 2010, as the country opened its doors to the world. In the early years, there were only a couple of Korean-speaking local licensed guides. However, according to local guides, the number of professional local guides who can speak Korean has now increased to 30.

“I decided to be a Korean guide and have invested many years to learn the language and tried hard to get the license too,” said Ko Kyaw Kyaw Naing, who has worked in the industry since 2010. “But now, all of our efforts have been in vain and we are unemployed as no tour agencies will hire us, for they are using Koreans instead.”

According to industry regulations, tourist guides need to be citizens of Myanmar and to have a professional license issued by the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism.

Travel agencies and tour operators tended to employ native tour leaders for package tours and group tours, but hire the local licensed tourist guides for tours across the country.

The local tourist guides said their Korean counterparts seemed to have no official license, but they were somehow hired as foreign employees of the travel agencies.

“Since 2012, they have hired English-speaking guides, so they can say they have a local tour guide. If they are doing that, what kind of job can we get?” said Ko Kyaw Kyaw Naing.

“Every year, we have to pay a tax to be a tourist guide, but the funny thing is, we have no job. We would like to urge the responsible government officials to reconsider the rules and regulations on this issue to create job security and job opportunities for the local professionals,” he said.