Dire shortage of tour guides

Karim (right) and his ministry’s permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee at the launch of the region-specific tour guide course in Kuching. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KUCHING: Sarawak aims to increase the number of tour guides in the state to at least 500 following the first phase of a training programme by its Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

Sarawak Tourist Guides Association president Abang Azahari Abang Zaidan said there were currently 169 tour guides in the state, compared to 2,000 in Sabah.

“With the first phase of the training, we are targeting at least 500 tour guides, ” he said after the launch of the Kuching intake of the regional specific tour guide course here on Wednesday.

State Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, who launched the course, said Sarawak had a gross shortage of tour guides.

“We are in dire need of producing as many tour guides as possible to prepare ourselves for the next few years, when we expect the number of tourists to increase, ” he said.

In his speech earlier, Karim said the training course was organised by the ministry in collaboration with the federal Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and SATT College to address the shortage of tour guides in Sarawak.

He said 19 tour guides completed the course in Miri on July 8 while 21 participants were undergoing the Kuching course, which commenced on Oct 12.

“My ministry will continue to organise the course in Miri for January 2021 intake and in Sibu for June 2021 intake.

“We have also collaborated with Yayasan Sarawak to provide financial assistance in the form of loans to those who are interested to pursue this course, ” he said.

Karim said the ministry and state Economic Planning Unit were carrying out the third Sarawak Tourism Master Plan study to chart the way forward for the tourism industry to recover from the impact of Covid-19.

He said the 15-year master plan, from 2020 to 2035, would identify and develop strategic directions and an action plan for the tourism sector to spur immediate and long-term growth.

“Through the plan, we hope to encourage innovation and allow existing tourism operators to identify business ventures, including public and private partnership.

“We will make sure that tourism development generates income and employment which benefits not only the corporate sector but also the people by involving them in community-based tourism, ” he said, adding that the master plan would be prepared by experts and industry players from the public and private sectors.

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