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Change the world

21/02/2023

As we celebrate International Tourist Guide Day today (21 February), we tend to forget about the legislative framework that underpins the work associated with guiding tourists.

Tourist guiding should result in memorable experiences, where the tourists not only get some insight about the attractions  they visit,  but also about the  past and what the future may hold for the attractions at this destination, along with its people. 
 
Whilst the tourists physically see the attractions and the communities, the story is told by the tourist guide, who should be telling a story based on facts, in a way that is both educational and  entertaining. 
 
Thus, your tourist guide must be  articulate and vibrant – not a “doomsayer” nor some maverick!
 
But how do we ensure this?
 
To ensure that minimum standards are adhered to, your tourist guide must be accredited by the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality, Sport Sector Educator and Training Authority (CATHSSETA), a statutory entity. 
 
Accredited tourist guides are expected to adhere to a code of conduct and wear their official badge with its unique number. The badge is an indication that whoever wears it, is legally compliant and bound to do the task – tourist guiding. This seeks to prevent others from posing as a tourist guide. 
 
The Tourism Act of 2014 also stipulates that all accredited tourist guides must be registered with the Provincial Tourist Guide Registrar. This  accreditation  is valid for  three years, after which it can be renewed. The Eastern Cape – one of the most scenic and historic provinces in the country – is fortunate to have a provincial registrar who is an active compliance officer.
 
South Africa has four types of tourist guides:
 
• Adventure guides who  accompany guests on adventure tourist activities. The enthusiastic youngsters at Storms River Adventures or the Tree Top Canopy Tour in Tsitsikamma for example, are Adventure Tourist Guides. Key issues for these guides revolve around safety, along with sustainability and the surrounding fauna and flora. 
 
• Nature guides are those whose expertise is usually found in game reserves and national parks. They accompany visitors on game drives and share pertinent information about the geography, geology, fauna and flora of a particular area – while also ensuring tourists do not become the prey!
 
• Culture guides are often bound by a specific geographical area, sharing key information about the cultural aspects of that area. The first category of cultural guiding is as a site guide, a community guide, and museum guide. The second category, that of provincial guides, accompany tourists in a specific province. 
 
Once a cultural guide has completed  the assessments for all nine provinces, they are eligible to become a national tourist guides, company tourists from one province to the next.
 
• The fourth and final  category is your specialist guide, such as a marine guides. These individuals – often with the salty, laid-back looks – develop multiple skills as they skipper, talk, take photographs and even predict the weather.
 
Apart from successfully completing the accreditation process, which is usually undertaken by an accredited private service provider, the tourist guide must be proficient in English. Being able to speak a foreign language is also advantageous.
 
But ultimately, along with the knowledge and accreditation, the tourist guide must be able to tell a good story – one that your visitors will remember and repeat.

International Tourist Guide Day is held on the 21st February each year. Celebrations were held for the first time in 1990 by the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (WFTGA) at which time only 15 countries around the world participated and jointly celebrated this special day. Over the years, awareness about this day has grown and to date, more than 70 countries celebrate this event worldwide. In South Africa, this day is celebrated with activities and programmes ranging from presentations, motivational talks, excursions and workshops. 

This article was written by Dr Hugh BartisPrincipal Lecturer in the Tourism Department at Nelson Mandela University.

Contact information
Dr Hugh Bartis
Principal Lecturer
Tel: +27 41 504 3766
hugh.bartis@mandela.ac.za