Thu, 25 Apr 2024 Today's Paper

Tour guides stranded in Covid 19 pandemic

29 March 2021 06:12 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A

    Among the many groups of people that were hard-hit by the virus are the tour guides    

 

After living in the UK for nine years where I studied engineering, I returned to Sri Lanka and began working as a manager at a computer sales company while undertaking further studies on international relations at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS).


One day, a language lecturer inquired about our linguistic skills. I said I am conversant with Italian. Since that time, one of my fellow students began telling me of ways to make use of my Italian language skills.
At that (1988) time Italian speakers were scarce in Sri Lanka; you didn’t find Italian speakers in every nook and corner. He said I’d have to travel around the country a lot, which point blank I refused due to my bad experiences in London concerning the sections of Tamil diaspora (at that time upcoming) in London. The civil war was already raging in Sri Lanka.

 

"The county’s best available resource is its ingenious and resourceful young generation and it should not be wasted. Make sure not to do cheap bargaining in the industry of tourism or the results will be disastrous for future generations"

 

But this man who later became a good friend of mine and my destiny maker continued to insist. At this time, my career changed from my computer manager’s job to something unexpected.

One day, I visited the office in Colombo where they wanted to hire me to travel with two Italians. I was very attracted to the luxurious structure of this office. The Chief Executive explained the job I had to do for a week. Air-conditioned car, air-conditioned hotel room, five-star hotel food, and the attention you get from people you meet everywhere – all this was amazing. 
I was mesmerised by all the activities the new job involved. The kind-hearted Mr Rupe, the veteran, well mannered, high calibre old school tourist driver gave me with total transparency all the advice needed for this particular job as a tour guide.

When I see new generation drivers, I feel Sri Lanka tourism need to revive the methods of those old school individuals who did their country proud by honesty, hard work and excellent service.
No heritage is static; it is dynamic and constantly changing. But we need to maintain the high standards of former decades, or we risk damaging the nation’s image.
Three decades have passed since then. Thousands of newcomers have flocked to this vital trade of tourism. I spoke of my first tentative footsteps to give a clear picture of what’s happening now. I use the term service as this is a service orientated industry.

A tour guide or a National Tour Guide Lecturer (NTGL) is an individual who has a license from the government tourism authority after following a substantial course that qualifies him or her to speak about the country’s culture, heritage, archaeology, flora and fauna, landscapes, history as well as natural resources and agriculture.  
This is the problem in a nutshell. A few weeks ago, there was a demonstration at the Galle Face green on the International Tour Guides’ Day. The guides carried placards demanding that  
the daily wage of tour guides, or the “guide fee,” be increased up to a minimum amount of US dollars 35 per day (Roughly Rs 5,000).

 

"A man who does building construction work or any handyman will get at least Rs. 2,500 a day or more, for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. But the tour guide works 24 hours, and there’s no fixed monthly salary. It’s a daily wage job like any other"

 

A man who does building construction work or any handyman will get at least Rs. 2,500 a day or more, for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. But the tour guide works 24 hours, and there’s no fixed monthly salary. It’s a daily wage job like any other.
By increasing the tour guides standards, the standards of the tourism industry too would be increased. If you look at this issue in a global context this is quite obvious; when the standards increase, the prejudice against humble tour guides, too, should diminish.

The tour guides act as the prime source of interaction between Sri Lankans and foreigners, and as a result of their services a great deal of revenue is generated to the island. If you create prejudices towards them and make them feel inferior as it often happens, in the long run, and the global context, this industry will not grow with high standards.
The county’s best available resource is its ingenious and resourceful young generation and it should not be wasted. Make sure not to do cheap bargaining in the industry of tourism or the results will be disastrous for future generations.

Illegal or unlicensed tour guides are everywhere to be seen, and when will the authorities take action to curb them?
Everyone must earn a living, but not at the expense of the country’s reputation. 
There are foreigners working here as tour guides, too, and taking away money which should remain here.  
What happened from last February up to now is a special case due to Covid 19, the tour guides have been unemployed and that can’t be blamed on anyone. As all the tour guides are freelancers, even if you have been working for three decades, there will not be anyone to worry about how a guide and his family can survive.  
This is a dangerous job with no guarantees.
When a guide is touring with clients from the airport your phone will keep on ringing. Now, for one year there hasn’t been a single call from the people in the so-called industry of tourism.  

I have rendered my services for more than three decades. When I called a senior executive at the establishment I worked for all that time, he didn’t have the time to talk and I was quite angry, but it’s too late now.
My advice to the younger generation: if you step into this trade make sure you have your rights established in such a way you will not be stranded when the going gets bad. The bottom line is most in our society do not know how valuable a tour guide is- to both society and the economy.
What needs to be done now is to increase the daily pay of tour guides; increase the minimum to about 35 US dollars, that is what the association has been asking.

Correspondingly, the reputation of tour guides, too, will be elevated from the present poor image people have. That is up to the government. It must step in and decide.
Jayantha Perera, though his education was grounded in electronics, is an experienced national tourist guide lecturer as well as a reputed astrologer. He is also the author of three books. The first two were autobiographical, based on his youthful travels in Italy and the UK, followed by his experiences in tourism in his motherland. His latest book is an exploration of the myth of Ravana, the demon king.

 

Order Gifts and Flowers to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Kids Toys, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,Astrology, Courier/Delivery, Medicine Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka

  Comments - 0

Order Gifts and Flowers to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Kids Toys, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,Astrology, Courier/Delivery, Medicine Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment




Order Gifts and Flowers to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Kids Toys, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,Astrology, Courier/Delivery, Medicine Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka