Tourist GuidesWho judges their qualification?

By: Jean Liu

Government license, most people would quickly reply. True. Guide licenses are issued in almost every country and region. License types vary from mountain guides to diving guides. A guide is qualified, since he has studied, passed government tests, and obtained a license.

Yet discussions on Philadelphia tourist guides sue have brought more thoughts on this test-to-qualify. The Philadelphia government recently required tourist guides to pass a history test and get license before introducing landmarks in the region. Three local guides sued, saying it violated free speech rights. Some argued passing a test doesn’t mean one has thorough understanding of the region history. Some pointed out it benefiting none but some commercial bodies.

Not only people in the States question qualification tests. There are also Chinese graduates complaining on acquiring the license but no actual work. To some extent, the reason lies in the breakaway between government tests and market requirements. Take China as an example, the qualification tests for tourist guides include Basic Guiding Knowledge, Industry Law and Morality, Guiding Skills, and Oral Test. The items are necessary but very basic. It makes to be a guide, yet far from a well-qualified guide.

Stand in the shoes of a traveler, the client who considers hiring a tourist guide.

What will he expect to achieve a fantastic and unforgettable trip? Of course the basic guiding knowledge is important. Some other elements are as well critical, especially in private small-group guiding as we discuss here.

The guide shall speak language of the client’s, foreign and domestic the same. People are not hiring someone to recite information on guide books. If so, they simply buy a Lonely Planet book. They want the guide to introduce and answer questions. Tailor-made trip is desired. Some people pay attention to cultures, some are attracted by local foods, and some want nothing but shopping. The travelers all want a guide to maximize their local exploration. Another expectation is the guide to handle local transportation cleverly. It doesn’t matter which transportation means, private cars, taxi, metro, tuk-tuk… But no client would be happy about repeated routes or traffic jam in rushing hours.

The market survivors are those who understand the needs of different travelers. The clients’ viral, in return, outstands the guide from others. But where to find such viral? It couldn’t be only the old-fashioned word of mouth. Thousands of travel websites are available for people to give destination reviews, and to name a few. Hotel and hostel reviews are easily accessible in various languages. But when it comes to tourist guides, there lacks a common platform to share client comments. Travelers are willing to talk about their experiences, either a fantastic trip with private tourist guide, or a terrible day by poor guiding. The clients need a place to give feedback. Other travelers want to hear fair comments. Tourist guides benefit from “credit judgment" of market to get more business. is designed to be such a platform.

One further qualification is presentation of tourist guides themselves. This is often neglected and undervalued. You think a guide will only boast about himself to get more business? Not necessarily. Go through guides profiles on , 90% have provided fair self-introduction. Travelers are clever enough to distinguish advertisement from presentation. Therefore, the tourist guides shall indeed “promote" themselves and their knowledge as a local expert.

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