Nod for foreign tour guides
By Elvina Fernandez
KUALA LUMPUR: Tour guides from Russia, South Korea, Iran and Japan will be allowed to operate in Malaysia from October.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the move was to meet the demand for more tour guides conversant in the four languages.
She said the government would scrutinise foreign tour guides before allowing them to operate to ensure tourists' safety.
"Only tour guides who know Malaysia well, with recommendations from tour operators, will be allowed to work in the country," she told a news conference after chairing a dialogue between ministry officials and industry players on the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan 2020.
A total of 23.65 million foreigners visited Malaysia, spending RM53.4 billion last year.
She said the government was expecting 36 million tourists and RM168 billion in revenue from the tourism industry by 2020.
Ng said the ministry, with the help of the Human Resources Ministry, trained 465 tour guides in language skill last year in programmes that cost RM3.6 million.
"The programmes were among the efforts to increase the number of foreign language-speaking tourists to the country.
"We have identified the market needs and realised there is a great demand for tour guides who are able to speak foreign languages.
"This is something that we are lacking."
Ng said bringing in foreign tour guides would not pose a threat to locals in the sector, but instead would help build capacity and generate a higher revenue.
She added that in the first five months of this year, tourist arrivals saw an increase of 4.2 per cent to 9.6 million compared with 9.2 million over the same period last year.
RM Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Khadijah Abdul Rahman said allowing foreign tour guides into the country would kill the local industry.
"Foreign tour guides might also give tourists the wrong impressions as they may not know the country well."
Khadijah added that the ministry would not be able to control the quality of foreign tour guides in the long run as there were only 20 enforcement officers to oversee and monitor their activities.
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