Touring another country means enjoying what that country has to offer, immersing yourself in their culture and learning as much as you can about your new destination.
This is why tour guides play such an important role in tourism - as they're meant to be the bastions of the overall experience.
The role they play formed the key focuse at the International Tourist Guides’ Day Celebrations at Robben Island on 2 and 3 March - themed Peace and Development through Guiding, the two day event celebrated the contributions they make to tourism.
Strengthening social bonds
Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom addressed the tour guides, and highlighted the importance of their work, at a Gala event on Thursday night, saying "Your work in tourism leads people to get together and understand each other better and it strengthens the social bonds between people. This is why tourism makes the world a better.
“You are leading tourists to more meaningful and more memorable experiences – even life changing experiences. And, by doing so, you are taking the entire tourism industry, and the contribution it makes to our country, to greater heights.”
While there is much to celebrate as South Africa's tourism continues to grow, the country is also proudly represented by Alushca Ritchie, who has just been appointed as the new president of the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations, held at the 17th biennial World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations Convention in Tehran, Iran.
Ritchie, a registered tourist guide for the Western Cape, says it is South Africa's food that she loves introducing visitors to, mostly. "Our huge array of different ways to eat, things to eat and places to eat at are all unbelievably diverse," she says. READ MORE HERE SA Guide named new President of global Tourist Guides Association
Following the two-day International Tourist Guide celebrations on Robbin Island here are three key ways South Africa's tourist guides are upping their game:
1. Guide certification and accuracy
The main point highlighted during the two-days on Robben Island was the accuracy of information that should be given to tourists.
State Security Agency spokesperson Gideon Adriaanse stressed on the fact that illegal guiding must be stopped to make sure that there are only qualified tourist guides.
In order for this to happen, The Department of Tourism is developing new projects in a form of a mobile app directory for tourist guides. This app will be a registry and database for all national and provincial tourist guides.
“This app will help us the national registrars to keep track of all qualified tour guide and it will also touch on key topics. We are going to use this app for communications and release a weekly newsletter.”
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2. New innovations to improve harmony
Prof Karen Harris, leading researcher of Cross-border Guiding says that tour guides are the mediators and the frontline professionals when it comes to tourism.
Cross-border guiding is a program run by the University of Pretoria in conjunction with the Department of Tourism to investigate the concept of developing an innovative training programme for cross-border tourist guides and a promotion of a harmonised tour guiding system.
“When people visit a country, they come to experience the culture and diversity and maybe sometimes adopt a few traditions so it is important that they get a full rounded experience,” says Prof Harris.
The discussions on day one centred on new innovations to improve harmony between the tour guide sector and thus making an experience of a tourist even more pleasurable.
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3. Updated tourism curriculum and use of technology
An updated tourism curriculum and knowledge is also important. It was agreed that tourist guides need to update their knowledge so that they can give the tourists correct information.
An introduction of using technology more to engage with people was also top of mind. Social media groups were a suggestion and also having Wi-Fi on the tour busses.
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