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South Africa celebrates International Tourist Guide Day

South Africa, through the The National Department of Tourism (NDT) together with the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism joined the world in celebrating this year’s International Tourist Guide Day, under the theme, Tourist guiding in the 21stCentury, writes Uveshnee Pillay – Director: Tourist Guiding.

The celebrations, which took  place in Kimberley in the Northern Cape, sought to create awareness about tourist guiding. It also provided a platform for the recognition of tourist guides who have excelled in their profession.

Celebrated annually on the February 21, this day was first introduced by the World Federation of Tourist Guide Association in 1990, where fifteen countries participated. Twenty three years later, this day is celebrated by tourist guides in more than seventy five countries.

South Africa celebrates International Tourist Guide Day mar13 pic guiding 1 victor thange 2In his opening remarks NDT’s Deputy Director-General for Policy and Knowledge Services and National Registrar of Tourist Guides emphasized the purpose of the day by briefly explaining it in context of the theme for the event, that is “Tourist Guiding in the 21st Century”.

Topics were carefully selected to support the theme and more importantly to equip tourist guides with the necessary tools to assist them in accessing market opportunities.

“Most tourist guides work on a freelance basis. As a freelancer its very difficult to survive as a business. Not only are you a manager of your own business, you need to go out and find business, execute that business and more importantly satisfy the customer. Topics such as Social Media Platforms are intended to provide tourist guides with information on how to get better exposure through the utilization of these social media tools, similarly, the presentation on Business Cooperatives is aimed at providing tourist guides with information on the benefits of starting co-operatives in order to increase market access by being able to access tour operators, to be included in tour packages, etc.” Said Tharage.

Tourist guides were encouraged to adhere to the Tourism Act of 1993, and contribute to the professionalisation of the sector.

A gala dinner, hosted by the Deputy Minister of NDT, in conjunction with the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mr. John Block, was held as part of the celebrations. In her key note address, Deputy Minister Thokizile Xasa pointed out the complex environment in which tourist guides operate and how it requires that they keep up with developments around them to remain competitive and relevant.

“I would like to see more guides taking up the opportunities presented by cooperatives and work with tour operators to enhance market access. Working together between the established and emerging enterprises will be one of the most critical ingredients for the success and transformation of the tourism sector,” the Deputy Minister concluded.

The CEO of Brand South Africa, Miller Matola addressed the importance of the role of tourist guides in building and maintaining a positive brand for South Africa.

Tourism Guiding EcosystemSouth Africa celebrates International Tourist Guide Day mar13 guiding 1 ecosystem diagram 3In his presentation to delegates at the Kimberley celebrations, Grant Hine, the CEO of the Field Guides Association of South Africa (FGASA) made an interesting observation. “The guiding industry functions as an Ecosystem, with all in it connected.As with any ecosystem, if one part does not perform its role ultimately the ecosystem will change and in most cases will not function as it should for the benefit of all.  To professionalise the guiding industry means to ensure that guides, employers and clients are all satisfied with the guided experience, thus all aspects of the Guiding Ecosystem have to be professional.   We need to work together for the professionalization of the whole industry – as a functioning healthy ecosystem“ said Grant.

A larger version of the diagram shown can be downloaded in PDF file format at http://www.tourismtattler.co.za/downloads/Tourism-Ecosystem-Diagram.pdf.