SEVERAL terms in the tourism and travel industry are wrongly used or misunderstood, thus causing confusion and resulting in the loss of time and money.
For example, the government was spot-on in naming the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (Motac), and not the Ministry of Tourism, Hospitality and Culture.
Hospitality, as an industry, encompasses hotels and restaurants.
These two major sectors, plus shopping, accounted for 71.5 per cent of tourism receipts from foreign visitors last year.
However, local universities are fond of offering tourism and hospitality courses, which are wide and academic.
This results in more than 90 per cent of these graduates not working in the tourism industry, as they lack the skills and knowledge to perform well.
Those who wish to work in hotels should study hotel management, and those interested in working in the kitchen should pick up culinary arts.
Instead of using “tourism companies”, it is better to call them outbound tour companies or operators, and their local counterparts, inbound tour companies or operators.
The term “local tour guides” is wrongly used. There is no such thing as “foreign tourist guides”.
In Malaysia, the official term is “tourist guides”, with the term “tour guides” used internationally.
Whichever is better depends on the interpretation of the job.
“Tourist guides” seems to suggest that tourists need to be guided, whereas “tour guides” places emphasis on the tour, which could be more meaningful with commentaries.
I asked thousands of people in the tourism industry and hundreds of tourist guides, and none could describe the job of a tourist guide.
I asked for responses from participants when conducting training sessions, and there could be 10 versions.
Although the answers were correct, none was complete.
But when I asked what the job of a postman was, the first respondent would always give the correct answer, which would be accepted by the group.
In Malaysia, most “city tourist guides” are permitted to guide tourists in the country.
However, it would not be practical for them to travel with a tour group across the South China Sea.
In the case of a tour group travelling by bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang or Kuala Terengganu, the same tourist guide would be with the group throughout, conducting sightseeing tours in Ipoh or Kuantan.
Local tourist guides based there would be considered bystanders.
Another category is “local nature tourist guides” who can guide tourists only in the natural areas where they were selected and had their licenses registered.
As of Aug 31, 2015, the number of registered guides was 15,405.
There are no “foreign tourist guides”, as tourist guides can only practise in the country where they are licensed. Tour leaders are appointed by the company organising an overseas tour for a group.
In countries where tourist guides are not licensed, experienced tour leaders double up as tourist guides.
There are no “international tourist guides”, as mistakenly said by top academics running the Faculty for Hospitality and Tourism of a public university.
They wanted to conduct an “international tourist guide course” years ago for graduating students.
As only institutes licensed by Motac and accredited with the Department of Skills Development can conduct tourist guide courses, the two academics, one with a PhD in tourism and the other a master’s, were looking for collaborations.
Upon hearing “international tourist guides”, I knew they were referring to tour leaders.
Anyone could have conducted the course, and there was no need to drive far to see me.
Many in the travel sector are not much better, as I have to ask questions before unearthing their business, which they should have articulated in their promotion.
Very few knew what Tour Operating Business and Travel Agency Business was, the system under which their companies are licensed.
Motac grants three licences for tours and travel businesses.
Travel agencies, which are mainly agencies for airlines, hotels and tour wholesalers, are licensed under “ticketing”.
New companies are initially granted “inbound” to promote inbound and domestic tours before “outbound” is added, allowing them to organise tours to overseas.
As for the foreign tourists who visited Malaysia last year, more than 90 per cent were independent travellers.
Those who arrived in groups booked their transfers and sightseeing services in advance with local inbound tour operators, who engaged the services of tourist guides.
The root cause of a flare-up in Sabah was over shopping commissions, since tour leaders and tourist guides often make more money from this source than tour companies profit from the same tour groups.
C.Y. MING, Kuala Lumpur