127 tour guide licenses have been issued to freelancers and employees of tour agencies since the license was introduced and made mandatory under the Tourism Order 2016, according to the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT).
The latest batch of 13 received their certificates for completing the national tour guide course – the foremost requirement to receive the tour guide license – from the deputy permanent secretary of tourism at MPRT Awg Wardi Hj Mohd Ali earlier today at their Setia Pahlawan hall.
All 127 licensed tour guides in the Sultanate have undergone either the basic or bridging tourist guide course with MPRT’s appointed training provider, Laksamana College of Business. The basic course is a 21-day programme which covers which covers both practical training for tour guides – which focus on interpersonal skills and best practices from the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (WFTGA) – as well as more theoretical subjects, including Brunei’s history and the Melayu Islam Beraja philosophy.
The bridging course on the other hand, lasts five days and serves more as a refresher, carrying the latest updates on tourism in Brunei. It’s designed specifically for senior executives at inbound travel agencies and tour guides who’ve been operating in the Sultanate prior to the introduction of the Tourism Order in 2016, and may already have WFTGA certifications.
“We’re trying to encourage more Bruneians to consider taking courses on being a tour guide,” said Wardi, who shared that the MPRT was also in talks with the Ministry of Education to explore the viability of their institutions offering the course. “As the arrivals of tourists increase there will be an increased demand for tour guides.”
Attending the tour guide course and subsequently securing the license – which is valid for three years – is a legal requirement to operate as a tour guide within Brunei. Failing to do is enforceable with a penalty up to $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for repeat offenses under section 21 of the Tourism Order.
59 of the 127 licensed tour operators in the Sultanate are freelancers, but MPRT tourism officer Nor-irrafidah Hj Ismail clarified that only companies registered as tour agencies are licensed to sell packages directly to tourists, with freelancers largely working as independent contractors for tour agencies.
Head of business, hospitality and tourism at Laksamana College of Business Simon Keenan also shared that they were working closely with MPRT to shorten the duration of the basic course from four weeks to two weeks, which will potentially lower the cost of the course from its current average of $1,000.
“We’re working on having a (written) test that’s administered before the course,” said Keenan. “This will allow the course to be shorter (to bring down costs) and will focus more on training in practical settings for tour guides, while the theory test will be based more around content like the national history, which the tour guides can study privately from published books (or materials).”
Inbound Manager of Freme Travel Services Sugumaran Nair, who employ more than 20 tour licensed tour guides, said the course has greatly aided guides in standardizing information surrounding Brunei’s history and most-visited monuments, while also serving as a general primer into what Brunei has to offer.
“It’s good for us (tourism industry) to be able to have consistent, factual and insightful information about Brunei available to us for us to present to visitors,” said Nair, who shared that Freme had provided inbound travel services to more than 20,000 people this year.
According to a previous report, Brunei drew 217,452 tourists from January to October last year, which is just 1,357 less than the total arrivals for 2016, positioning the Sultanate to exceed last year’s numbers once November and December’s numbers are included in caculations.
The next Tourist Guide Basic Course is being held in June and October this year. To learn how you can register, visit Laksamana’s website.