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Illegal tour guides pose threat to Singapore's image

AS SINGAPORE continues to receive record numbers of overseas visitors, the emergence of illegal tour guides is fast becoming a bugbear in the country.

  31/05/2012 08:45

Licensed tour guides accuse their illegal counterparts of sullying the destination’s image, relaying incorrect information to tourists, and infringing on their business.

The issue came to the fore recently when local media reported about the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) cautioning a local tour operator, Singapore Ducktours, for its use of illegal guides over the past five years.

According to Jean Wang, chairman of the 400-member Society of Tourist Guides (Singapore), the problem has always existed, but is now gaining prominence due to the tourism boom. 

“Sad to say, tour companies from neighbouring countries – such as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia – are apt to avoid using local (Singapore) guides. A number depend on tour leaders or guides from home to impart information (about Singapore), which can be wrong and misleading at times,” she said.

“Often, the decision to use illegal guides boils down to cost. It is cheaper to rely on hires from home rather than pay a local firm to engage a licensed (Singapore-based) guide.”

Wang added that these imposters tend to ply their trade at free attractions such as Merlion Park and Chinatown, where it is easier to evade detection.

“Unfortunately, when we inform STB about illegal guides, it takes time to send an inspector down. Often, these so-called guides manage to get away just in the nick of time,” she said.

“Moreover, it is impossible for STB to observe or control what tour leaders or guides say to passengers on coaches, and hence, wrong messages about Singapore are being transmitted.”

In an email reply to TTG Asia e-Daily’s queries, STB said it was trying to nip the problem in the bud by conducting several enforcement operations this month. Last year, the NTO carried out 200 such enforcement drives, double its efforts in 2010. It has also introduced a larger, watermarked license card for tour guides starting this month.

“Besides stepping up enforcement operations and educating the travel industry about the need to use licensed travel guides, STB is always mindful that the tourism landscape is dynamic, and that the needs of all parties, from travel (consultants) and tourist guides to our visitors, are rapidly changing. Hence, the board conducts regular reviews of the Travel Agents Act & Regulations to ensure relevancy," the NTO added.

(Source: TTG Asia)

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