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Increasing demand for tour guides

The Department of Tourism will be issuing more tour guide licenses this year than in the past. The department has taken in 300 Class XII graduates for its one-month annual tour guide training course. The course started at the beginning of March 2006.

A first aid class in session for tour guide trainees

Tourism officials said that while licenses would be issued only to those trainees who score the required percentage in the examination conducted at the end of the course at least 50 percent of the trainees usually met the criteria.

In previous years about 20 licenses were issued annually.

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The increasing demand for guides came from the increasing number of tourists visiting the country, officials said.

To meet the demand the department issued about 150 temporary guide licenses during the peak tourist seasons. "Not all the licensed guides are in the country when they are required," said the joint director of the tourism service division, Kunzang Norbu. "They are abroad either upgrading their education qualification or on training."

Working as a licensed guide did not ensure full time employment, tourism officials said, adding that working as tour guides in Bhutan was a seasonal job. Tour operators losing clients to guides who later started their own companies was one reason why companies were reluctant to hire guides outside the company.

But the popularity of working as a guide has been growing and this year the department received more than 500 applications for the course. In 2005 the department received 200 applications.
Tourism in Bumthang

The reason for the drastic increase according to some observers could be related to the difficulty in finding jobs among the youth. It could also be because the job was perceived to be lucrative, observers said.

An applicant said that his interest in the profession mainly sprung from the reality that the industry would be big in future and would be a good business opportunity for him.

Getting the license seemed more important than the training course itself, said one observer.

While it was genuine interest that made some people get trained for others it was only a means to get supplementary income.

If people were doing the training for the wrong reasons it would not improve professionalism in the industry, tourism officials said.

The training, which began on March 2006 and specialises the trainees as cultural and trekking guides provides brief lessons on subjects like history, religion, iconography, tour guiding techniques, communication skills, first aid, flora and fauna and driglam namzha.

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At present there are about 300 licensed guides in the country.

Contributed by Kinley Wangmo, KUENSEL, Bhutan's national newspaper, 2006


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