Mar 12 2012
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Tour guides are the backbone of tourism industry
Although there are many tour guides in the Kingdom only 160 out of 200 are certified. Amongst them is Majed Al-Shehri, a young man who recently received his certification as an official tour guide for the scenic Asir region.
"The tour guide is actually a local ambassador for his country and a representative of his people. He is the first person, and in some cases the only person that the foreign tourist closely interacts and socializes with. Through his behavior, attitude, and the way he presents himself and relates to others, he introduces to newcomers much about the country's history, customs, traditions, beliefs, and education. Therefore, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities stipulated that graduates from the tourism colleges in the Kingdom must attend rigorous training and pass written and practical exams before receiving certification," said Al-Shehri.
Al-Shehri further explained, "The tour guide is there to meet the tourists from the time of their arrival until he bids them farewell at the end of their trip. It is the tour guide who accompanies both local and foreign visitors to the city, museums, historical spots, famous archeological sites, cultural exhibitions, and other attractions. He must impart accurate information about the different places and their history and be prepared to answer questions, so a tour guide is also an educator.
Part of our job is also erasing some false stereotypes and misconceptions that others may hold regarding Saudis and Saudi culture. Among other responsibilities of the tour guide is protecting the safety of the tourists, their personal belongings, important documents, and ensuring a comfortable and pleasant stay as long as they are guests in the country. We sometimes also organize field trips for school students so they too can learn more about their country and see its attractions."
Payments are made depending on agreements independently reached between tourists and tour guides, or it is based on a contract between the tour guide and the tourism agency. The tour guide and the agency cooperate to organize and facilitate all scheduled excursions. For tour guides, such as Al-Shehri, the day usually starts at seven o'clock in the morning and ends at nine o'clock at night.
Summer is the prime season for tourism in the Asir region because of the beautiful mild weather, but tourists in the Jeddah and Makkah region work all year round to care for Haj and Umrah pilgrims.
Al-Shehri also said that it is not an easy job, but if you love what you do and you do your job well, you end up enjoying it and having a great time with your visiting group. He urges more young men to consider taking up a career in tourism. The Asir region is a magnet for tourists due to its exceptional splendor of huge mountains, deep valleys, green trees, and colorful flowers. However, it lacks proper tour guides and other services to show visitors around and facilitate their stay in the region.
As for what makes an excellent and successful tour guide, Al-Shehri said, "The number one requirement is that the tour guide should have a genuine interest, passion, and love for working in the field of tourism. A tour guide should have good speaking and communication skills and should know how to relay information in a clear and entertaining manner. Flexibility, patience, friendliness, and smiling are definite musts when it comes to leading a group of tourists and showing them around your hometown. I find myself constantly reading to stay up to date on any new discoveries in my city and to be well informed of the history of the places I will be taking my visitors to."
Tour guides must also show respect for people of all races, nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds and must be able to reach out to visitors of all ages.
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