After two weeks each of intensive training, 39 tourism professionals received, during a ceremony officiated by YM Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid bin Hj Mohd Jaafar, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and Deputy Chairman of the Brunei Tourism Board, a certificate of participation for having attended the hands-on training course for tour guides delivered by two qualified British trainers from the World Federation of Tour Guide Associations.
As the persons with whom the majority of tourists have the most contact with when visiting Brunei, tour guides play a crucial role as “ambassadors” of sorts to foreign visitors, as they are the ones explaining to tourists about the culture, history, nature, way of life, society, and institutions of Brunei.
It is, therefore, important that tour guides should be equipped not only with the correct information, but also the correct techniques to deliver such information, as this would provide both a pleasant and informative experience to the tourists. Satisfied tourists are the best way to promote a destination, as word of mouth publicity is by far the most important element influencing the decision by tourists to visit a particular destination.
Though a satisfying experience of Brunei involves also a number of other elements, such as quality of service in hotels, restaurants, shops, and taxis, the quality of welcome by immigration and custom officials, the friendliness of people in general, and the quality and diversity of tourism products and attractions, which are everyone’s concern, it is often the quality of the guiding services that will be the most memorable element in a tourist’s holiday.
With Brunei still being in the learning curve in regards to its fast-growing tourism industry, which has seen an increase of over 40 percent in tourist arrivals this year, as well as a growing number of cruise ships calling on Muara port, Brunei Tourism and the Brunei Association of Travel Agents were concerned that the level and quality of guiding services in Brunei was not of the desired standards compared to neighboring destinations.
To address this, after consultation with members of the travel agents’ association and after a process of selection among several proposals, it was decided to appoint the world’s leading authority in tour guide training, the UK and Cyprus based World Federation of Tour Guide Associations (WFTGA), a non-profit organization affiliated with the United Nations World Tourism Organization representing tour guide associations from over 50 countries on 4 continents and with a vast experience in delivering tour guide training courses around the world through highly-qualified trainers who are themselves practicing guides in their respective countries.
For the hands-on training course, which is a short but intensive course focusing on guiding techniques, skills enhancement, and communication, two trainers from the United Kingdom, Mrs. Iris Barry and Mrs. Mary Kemp Clarke came to Brunei to deliver two courses over a four-week period, with each course ending with a written and practical assessment, in which trainees had to demonstrate skills and knowledge in a bus tour around the capital city, walking tour of downtown Bandar, and museum tour at the Brunei Museum.
The lead trainer, Mrs. Iris Barry, is an active Blue Badge tourist guide in Scotland, England, and Wales with 22 years of experience in the field, as well as a certified trainer with years of experience training tour guides around the world and with a number of tourism-related degrees, in addition to being a trained archaeologist and published author on the subject of South American pre-history.
Assisting her in delivering the course was Mrs. Mary Kemp Clarke, also a Blue Badge guide in Scotland with many years of experience in both guiding and training internationally, as well as being an archaeology and Spanish language graduate, among many other qualifications and honorary positions in several associations.
With such eminently-qualified trainers, the objective of this course was to improve the skills and techniques of the guides by learning from best practitioners. Those guides who will pass the assessment, which will be finalized by year end by the WFTGA Training Committee in the UK, will then receive an accreditation badge endorsed by Brunei Tourism and the WFTGA and recognized by the Brunei Association of Travel Agents. This will be a first step towards future implementation of a compulsory licensing system needed to regulate the profession, as well as the quality of the guides who must take care of visitors to Brunei in a professional, competent, and regulated manner.
In order to train and accredit the majority of practicing guides in Brunei, Brunei Tourism will call again on the WFTGA to conduct more Hands-on Training courses in the near future.
For more on the WFTGA and its activities, and on the benefits of setting up a tourist guide association, the WFTGA website at: www.wtfga.org can be consulted.