‘Bleak future’ for Phuket tour guides
PHUKET: Thai tour guides may not have good enough English skills or a strong enough work ethic to compete with other nationalities when the ASEAN Economic Community plan (AEC) takes effect in 2015, guide representatives say.
Saturday 10 September 2011, 08:41AM
When the AEC comes into being, it will be easier for nationals of the 10 Asean countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) to travel between the countries and, more to the point, work in them.
Nationals from the Philippines and Indonesia will be the biggest competition to Thai tour guides, Phuket Professional Guide Association (PPGA) president Panompol Thammachatniyom said during a meeting at Phuket Rajabhat University on Saturday (September 3).
“Their income is low [in their respective countries] which will encourage them to move to other AEC countries. Their advantage is their good English,” Mr Panompol said.
He said he would not be so concerned if young Thai tour guides were preparing themselves for the AEC plan by developing their English language skills and improving their work standards.
However, from his observations, they were not, which would make it hard for them to compete.
“I’ve learned that young Thai people don’t realise their fundamental right [to work in the tourism industry] and that they should protect it. Many people fail to understand what the AEC means to us. They don’t improve themselves to protect their right [to remain in the tourism industry].”
“We have trapped ourselves,” Mr Panompol said.
Supachai Wattananarin, vice president of PPGA, said Phuket’s local guides were not enthusiastic enough about improving their skills. Sitting guides – where a Thai person sits in on a tour to fulfill the legal obligations while a foreigner actually does the job – was one example of this, he said.
The length of guide training was also an issue of concern, he said. It took as little as 10 days to pass the basic guide training course and become a registered guide, he said.
Paison Prompong, another member of PPGA, said at the moment being a tour guide was something reserved for Thais only.
“But after the AEC comes into existence – depending on any agreement between the AEC countries – it may no longer be a reserved job.”
Mr Paison said that nationals of countries where tourism was not a main source of income, for example Singapore, might be tempted to move to other countries to be guides.