Call to help tour guides left jobless

Abdul Rashid holding up a songkok made by an Orang Asli from Kampung Peta, Mersing using the terap tree bark. Such items are showcased during the Johor Sumpit Challenge and Aboriginal Festival.

JOHOR BARU: The Johor City and Nature Tour Guide Association (JCNTGA) is appealing to the state government to make full use of the current lull in tourism to provide reskilling and upskilling training for tour guides.

Its chairman Abdul Rashid Narikkodan Mammod urged the government to take proactive measures to ensure tour guides received knowledge updates and remained socially connected to the tourism industry.

Due to the travel vacuum caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, many tour guides have been left jobless and forced to take on odd jobs such as delivering goods, petty trading and other temporary jobs, he said.

He believed that with the new skills learnt, the tour guides would find alternative jobs to help them earn a living as their income had been severely affected by the pandemic.

“Some of the main problems faced by the association’s tour guides are language proficiency and lack of knowledge in other areas, that can be improved under the suggested reskilling and upskilling programmes.

“The government should seriously look into funding these programmes, to get the tour guides ready to take on post-pandemic travel influx, whenever that may be,” he added.

Among the suggested training are ecotourism-related courses covering the country’s rich biodiversity, which is one of Malaysia’s main attractions other than history, culture, food, and various other tourism sectors.

“Malaysia has one of the richest biodiversity in the world and we can play a prominent role in getting more locals and tourists excited about our beautiful ecosystem.

“By bringing more people to the jungles, for example, we can show them nature’s wonders and at the same time educate them to be kinder to the earth.

“It will also benefit the rural and other local communities such as the Orang Asli,” he said, highlighting the Johor Sumpit Challenge and Aboriginal Festival co-organised by the association in Kampung Peta, Mersing since 2018.

He said the event was forced to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic but looked forward to next year in hopes that it could be organised again to celebrate the unique culture, food, music, dance and games of the Orang Asli community.

In view of the present challenges, the government should also consider issuing a transportation permit to tour guides, which would allow them to offer their services using their own vehicles, said Abdul Rashid who has been a licensed tour guide since 1992.

Tour guides has been losing out on work prospects for the past 10 years, he said.

“Many small groups and independent travellers now choose to explore places on their own with information from the Internet.

“We are also facing multiple challenges from unlicensed tour guides and illegal tour operators like private car owners who pass themselves off as tour guides.

“Stricter enforcement is needed to weed out the illegal tour guides and operators because such activities can harm the country’s image and reputation if inaccurate information is disseminated to tourists,” he emphasised.

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