Published on: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Kota Kinabalu: The Federal Tourism Ministry will entertain requests from foreign embassies in Malaysia for their nationals to be employed as tourist guides to make up for the shortage of foreign speaking guides in Sabah.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said this would be a temporary measure until the Sabah tourist guide industry could provide enough foreign speaking guides.
She said this was important because in the case of Korean tourists, there are simply not enough Korean-speaking tour guides in Sabah, which at the moment number only eight.
More than 40,000 Koreans came to visit Sabah this year between January and June with only eight Korean-speaking guides to cater to them.
Hence, there is a need and demand for Korean-speaking guides in Sabah. Last year, 36,422 Koreans visited Sabah while this year, 43,873 for the first six months, respectively.
And the seven Koreans that have work permit to work as tourist guides, she said, are not allowed to conduct freelance assignments.
When the Ministry conducted the interview, 19 applied but only seven were given the nod.
"So, if the Russians come here (in big numbers), I have to give (provide them with Russian-speaking tour guides).
"If they ask the State Government that they want Russian-speaking tour guides and that they will not come if there aren't any, of course we have to provide them," she said, after the presentation of 1Malaysia student discount cards at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Monday.
While she understands the Sabah Tourist Guide Association's (STGA) concern over the matter and assured it is only a stop gap measure.
Hence, she said, it is important that the association build the capacity for foreign-speaking guides as well as to look at the present trends and needs of the industry.
"They should prepare themselves to meet this challenges."
The STGA on Sunday urged the Ministry to cancel its recent decision to allow foreigners attending the localised tourist guide course here.
Its chairman, Daniel Doughty, said it would affect the livelihood of local tour guides.
He said local guides are already suffering from the global economic crisis and the reduction of direct flights to Sabah.
"And now we have to compete with foreigners to earn a livingÉthis is really demoralising for those in the profession," he said.
To this, Dr Ng said if the STGA could provide the Ministry with 14 Korean-speaking guides, she would be happy to comply with the organisation's request.
"But this is a matter of demands and needs. And this request came from the Korean Embassy upon request from the Korean tourists," she said.
She said the Ministry only wants to provide the best service to the tourists, including giving them the best experience during their stay here so that they will come back and visit Sabah again.
Korean visitors, Dr Ng said, are considered high yield tourists because they spent quite significant amount of money in the country during their visit to Malaysia.
On STGA's complaint that the Ministry did not engage or consult it with regards to the hiring of Koreans as tourist guides, she said it has been discussed many times already.
She also rejected the proposal for the Government to work with the STGA to train tour guides as foreign- speaking guides.
"For us in Malaysia, we must berdikari (be independent).
And it is up to them (to send guides for training in Korea).
"Nobody is asking the guides to go overseas for training," she said, adding that if they do so, it would be good for the guides.
On who would monitor the Korean tour guides should they give incorrect facts to Korean tourists, Dr Ng said the STGA should improve themselves.