HA NOI — The country saw a rise in the number of foreign visitors in recent years, but there remains a lack of qualified tour guides to support the sector, according to tourism experts.
|A guide shows tourists around the Citadel in Hue. Viet Nam needs more qualified tour guides to support its growing tourism industry. —VNA/VNS Photo Minh Duc
Statistics from the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) showed that the country had welcomed over 3.3 million international visitors and 17.5 million domestic tourists in the first half of the year, up 13.9 per cent over the same period last year.
However, there are only around 6,000 qualified international tour guides working in the country.
The shortage can be clearly seen in the number of guides who are capable of speaking Korean, despite the fact that South Korean tourists are second only to Chinese visitors to the country.
There were only 17 tour guides in the country who could speak Korean, said Pham Le Thao, Deputy Director of VNAT's Travel Department.
This had forced many travel agencies to use South Korean tour guides, also known as sitting guides, who had very little knowledge of Vietnamese culture, she said.
Some of these sitting guides even took advantage of South Korean tourists by buying goods in Viet Nam then selling them on to tourists at a premium.
Director of Travel Support Company Do Dinh Cuong told Cong Thuong (Industry) newspaper that the shortage of guides fluent in languages such as Japanese, Spanish, Korean and Thai had even forced travel agencies to use untrained guides.
Other enterprises had to rely on collaborators, and this had become more frequent during the economic downturn with enterprises incapable of financing their full-time staff.
The number of freelance tour guides has risen quickly, but their quality was yet to be guaranteed as these guides were not responsible for accidents that occurred during the tours since they were not bound to any enterprises, Cuong said.
The strategy to develop tourism to 2020 with a vision to 2030 approved by the Prime Minister in Decision 2473 signed in December 2011 stipulated that developing human resources would be a breakthrough to improving the quality of tourism services.
According to VNAT Deputy General Director Nguyen Manh Cuong, the shortage of professionals had made enterprises use tour guides from other companies who were not necessarily professionally trained.
"For that reason, the link between training schools and companies becomes very necessary," Cuong said.
Despite efforts by enterprises to co-operate with schools, there are still many difficulties.
According to Dao Thuy Anh, general director of Viet Star Travel Agency, many graduates from these schools needed to be retrained. "Many of them, especially those who major in Vietnamese Studies or History, do not have conversational English."
"Under the tough demands of enterprises, many tour guides have to quit their jobs due to a lack of knowledge and experience," said Thuy Anh.
To make things easier, VNAT said it would grant international tour guide certificates to graduates from vocational training schools, not just universities as before.
However, the proposal had been on the table for a long time but never approved for some unknown reason, Thao said.
She also added that VNAT had worked on various solutions to help manage the quality of the country's tour guides, including creating a website with information on all tour guides so that customers could leave comments if they were unsatisfied.
All qualified tour guides have also been equipped with smart cards instead of paper cards, and international tour guides and inland tour guides are distinguished by the colour of their cards.
"In order to improve the quality of tour guides, we hold a small class for tour guides every weekend with the help of experienced guides and a retired teacher who is an expert in tourism. We also organise trips on which a new guide is accompanied by an experienced one, so that they can learn from each other," said Thuy Anh.
For many tour guides themselves, higher incentives would make the idea of devoting themselves to the job a lot more attractive. — VNS