2020-Base Year for Systematic Tourism: Making of Tourist Guides


24th Apr, 2020 | Tourism Mail Crew


Due to the unforeseen COVID-19 outbreak and cancellation of Visit Nepal Year 2020, the most affected sector of the country from this pandemic is tourism and it is for sure that it will take us another year or two to fully recover from this. During this period of pandemic, most of our offices are closed and we are free at home. As we all know that there is plenty to improve in our tourism sector; this will be the very right time to start working on the development of systematic tourism. There are many direct and indirect elements which are involve in tourism industry and that are required to update from time to time. From the different elements of the tourism industry, one of the main and direct elements is Tourist Guides who are in direct interaction with the tourist. 

Backdrop

A tourist guide is a person who takes people on trips through an area and provides assistance, explains interesting details about it and helps tourists to have a splendid experience. A guide plays a significant role to make a day of the tourist best or the worst in Nepal, we have below criteria to be a tourist guide. 

a: Bachelor Pass out in any Discipline.

b: Have taken 10 weeks training from Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM).

Since we are planning to welcome more tourists in coming year and making tourism a biggest industry contributing to national GDP, we should have to look on these facts; do we have required number of city guides for incoming tourists? Are there sufficient numbers of language guides for specific group of people? Is there any provision to choose/book guides through online? And most importantly, the remuneration of tourist guides; are our guides paid sufficiently and is their income falls inside the national revenue bracket? 

 

Number of Guides, Their Competencies & Their Booking

According to the recent data from Department of Tourism, there are around 4500 guides who have taken city tour guide license. But if you look into the market, you find a ridiculous number; there are hardly 200 active guides who are in work, only 200. There is extreme shortage of the qualified tourist guides in seasons (September-November and March-May). Let's assume, if we are able to bring 2 million tourists, out of it if only half of them decides to visit Kathmandu, in an average a single guide need to look after 13 people per day for a year (1000000/200/365= 13.70). Outrageous!!! On an even darker side, there is very nominal number of language guide available in the market and only few of them are capable to handle the specific group of people well. According to the data from the updated website of Tourist Guide Association of Nepal (TURGAN); so called representative body of tourist guides in country; out of more than 4000 license holders in country; they only have 634 registered guides. Among them 116 are registered as Chinese Language guide, 120 as German, 77 as Spanish, 69 as Japanese, 63 as French, 41 as Italian, 19 as Russian and 18 as Korean language guide. And most of them have dual language so actual no of guide available at the market is not same as it emerged above. So I believe, welcoming 2 million is not a big deal but treating them well is. 

On the other hand, TURGAN does not have any idea on where their guides are, how are they booked, how much they are paid and whether their income falls inside national tax bracket or not? We are still way behind to provide an online booking facility of the guides. We don't have any such procedure or a technology which enable tourists to choose their preferred guide beforehand. This results in below average satisfaction from the guide that travel agent or hotel avail them and ultimately dissatisfaction from the whole stay and visit. They will be obliged to return with an awful experience. 

Remuneration of Tourist Guides & Its contribution to National Economy

Now, Lets have a brief look into the remuneration of tourist guides fixed by NATTA & TURGAN as of now: 

No. of Tourists

English Language (Half Day)

Other Languages (Half Day)

01 to 02

NRs 1,175/-

NRs 1,465/-

03 to 06

NRs 1,500/-

NRs 1,815/-

07 to 12

NRs 1,625/-

NRs 1,940/-

13 to 20

NRs 1,750/-

NRs 2,190/-

21 & above

NRs 1,900/-

NRs 2,625/-

*The above rates are for the Half-day sightseeing Tour and should be doubled up for Full day Tour.

Coming to the economic point of view now; if a guide have to look after around 13 people per day for a year (as stated above), 1 single guide (English Speaking) will earn around NPR 12,77,500.00 (1750X2X365) and for 200 guides it will be a mammoth total of NPR 25,55,00,000.00 (Twenty Five Crore and Fifty Five Lakhs) per year. Whoa! And with existing organism, these incomes will not reflect into the national taxation system and directly going into the guide's pocket. As specified from the government, guides income are falls under 15% taxation criterions i.e. our government can collect Rs. 3,83,25,000.00 (Three Crore Eighty Three Lakh and Twenty Five Thousands) as a revenue from the income of tourist guides.

Renewal of Tourist Guide License 

Nepalese Tourist Guides are required to renew their working license in every 5 years and the renewal fee is of just Rs. 500 for 1st 35 days from the expiration. Just Rs. 500 for 5 years?? Is not it something strange?? Because of this policy of giving license for 5 years and renewing it for just Rs. 500, we have more passive guides. We don't know where and what they are doing, but we keep on renewing them almost for free. There is a provision for the submission of periodic report of tourists handled by every individual guide in each 6 month but this has not been implemented properly. Because of this, more and more passive guides are renewed and government has false data on the number of guides available. In another side, is Rs. 500 enough to renew the license of tourist guide for 5 years keeping their income in mind? Obviously not. This should be increased by reasonable manner and the renewal also should not be for 5 years. It should be for a single year and should only renew those who have submitted the periodic report and paid applicable taxes from their income to the government. 

Summing up, it may not be possible to update all the systems in 2020 but concern authorities must have to start work out on these things by 2020. We can celebrate 2020 as a base year for updated and systematic tourism service. Department of Tourism and TURGAN as well as Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM); Single institution to provide tour guide training, should work on to the production of quality manpower rather that issuing license to everyone who pays applicable fees and stayed in class for 10 weeks. In the same way, We should work on to develop online booking system for the guides, updating their remuneration online, making them compulsory to obtain personal PAN numbers and every booking should reflect directly into the taxation system. Every employer must make payment to guide by deducting applicable taxes and registering it to their respective PAN numbers. This may seems little tricky now, but once we get into the system, this will ease a lot and ultimately leads to the higher contribution on GDP through tourism in world’s must preferred touristic destination.

Sujan Panta
Tourist Guide License No: 4395