Last update: 11:05 | 23/11/2017
VietNamNet Bridge – New rules could push thousands of freelance tourist guides out of work next year, creating a serious shortage in the industry, experts warn.
A tour guide at Thien Cung Cave, Ha Long Bay in northern Quang Ninh Province. - VNA/VNS Photo Tran Viet
They say that the provisions on issuing tourist guide licenses in the Law on Tourism set impractical conditions that freelancers will not be able to meet, pushing them out of work, worsening the current shortage.
The Law on Tourism stipulates that tourist guides should have labour contracts with authorized travel agencies, tour operators or firms providing tour-guide services; or be a member of a professional tour guide organisation.
In addition, tour guides must have a contract or equivalent document on every trip.
Currently, carrying a tour guide card is the only requirement.
New rules are needed
Officials of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism have said that the tightening of conditions for issuing tour guide licences was necessary to improve occupational skills and standards.
The new provisions are also needed to better manage the operations of freelance tour guides who account for 90 per cent of total in the country, they add.
Pham Le Thao, deputy director of the VNAT’s travel department of Travel told the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper that since 2016, the administration has found 393 cases where fake university degrees were used to get tour guide cards.
Of these, 300 cases have been handed to the police for investigation.
Moreover, occupational ethnics and qualifications of tour guides in general have not met international tourists’ expectations.
Thus, the provisions that require tour guides to work under the management of travel businesses, professional career associations or tour guide service suppliers would better help develop skills, enable better management and protect the rights of tour guides, Thao said.
Crisis in the making
Several tourism experts and industry insiders do not share the VNAT’s opinion.
Viet Nam plans to welcome 13 million international tourists this year, and it needs at least 25,000 international tour guides and 50,000 domestic tour guides to serve these visitors.
Currently, there are about 20,000 tour guides in the country, of whom 19,000 are freelancers. If they cannot satisfy the new provisions and are thrown out of work, the tourism sector will face a serious human resource crisis, the experts say.
Nguyen Tuan Quyen said that the new provisions were not feasible and would cause a lot of difficulties.
First, there is no national tour guide service provider in the country, so freelancers cannot register to work for such an agency.
Second, most travel businesses only sign contracts with a limited number of tour guides to save costs, hiring freelancers during peak season. Thus, there was little chance of having all 19,000 freelancers being able to sign contracts.
As a result, joining a career association – or the Viet Nam Association of Tour Guides, the new, sole agency established this month, was the only choice for freelancers.
Quyen said this was “totally improper” as people should join a certain association voluntarily for its ability to protect members’ rights instead of being forced to do so.
He also said that many tour guides have complained about the high registration VND500,000 (US$22), and annual membership fee of VND1 million ($44).
Most freelance tour guides have no stable income and can only earn money for several months during the peak tourism season, so this was a high amount for them, he added.
Tu Quy Thanh, director of the Lien Bang Travel Link, said the association should not collect fees initially, to encourage tour guides to join. When members are well protected, trained and able to earn stable incomes, they will be ready to pay fees.
Nguyen Van My, chairman of Lua Viet Tour Company said that it was necessary to turn all freelancers to formal employees of travel businesses.
Travel businesses should be required to have at least five international tour guides and ten domestic tour guides to continue operations. This would solve the problem, he said.
My said that in fact, freelancers signed seasonal contracts with travel businesses for the peak period. The Government should accept this contract to avert a potential crisis in the coming months, he added.