They can be found near various monuments that dot the landscape in Goa. People who offer their services to tourists who wish to learn more of the history of the monument. Guides can be found in huge numbers in places like old Goa offering their services. For the tourists it can be a disconcerting experience because of the aggressive nature in which the guides offer their services and also in many cases, they seem to be offering different accounts of history. The State government now intends to train a thousand guides who will come into the market in two years. The government believes there are limited numbers of guides in the state and this initiative will help sort this problem.
Members of the industry had differing views on this move by the government. Vincent Ramos, Area Director - IHCL, Goa said “Introducing certified chaperones for tourists is not only a great initiative but also a valuable contribution by the Government of Goa towards enhancing the tourism landscape. This is indeed a potential step towards an augmented experience for travellers keen on exploring Goa’s rich and diverse culture and heritage. Since the activity is governed by the state authorities, it will encourage safety and security among tourists visiting the state and further help promote tourism in a positive light. Moreover, iconic sites and monuments across the length and breadth of the state will be showcased by qualified escorts equipped with in-depth knowledge of its cultural and historical significance.”
Sangeeta Shetye Sales Manager, Oman Air Goa felt it was an excellent initiative by the Govt to create local licensed tour Guides. She said “This will surely increase the confidence of the guests visiting Goa that they are not only in the hands of the qualified Tour Guides but also the one who will share the history behind every place / monuments. Would like to reiterate that Tourism is the mainstay of Goa’s economy and along with the Govt every Goan needs to make a tourist welcome in our beautiful Goa”.
A local DJ with strong links to the tourism industry felt it was a great initiative as the tourists would feel safe and confident about visiting Goa since the training would be conducted by qualified people in the tourism industry. This would help generate employment opportunities which was the need of the hour in post pandemic Goa.
A member of the political class, Vinod Kinlekar, a councillor, felt it was a great step by the government if the guides were provided with good training since it would generate employment and also ensure correct information would be passed on. He said “The new age tourist is smarter and educated and overcharging will not happen.”
However there were those who had a very different viewpoint. Maria Victor, founder of a company that organises walks, felt that while it was a great initiative by the Government to have 1000 certified tourist guides, it was very important to make sure that a benchmark for quality and authenticity was set for those applying to be a guide. This she felt could be done by integrating the guide course into the tourism courses which were available in colleges in Goa and bringing in industry experts to up-skill youth to the industry standards.
Atish who runs a destination management company said it was a great idea but he would be surprised if the government would be able to attract even twenty percent of the numbers desired by the authorities. He said “No one is looking forward to such a career. There are too many touts, too many crooks that give the business a bad name. It is controlled by people who are not interested in showing the wonderful places in Goa but are keen on taking them to a casino or a hotel where they will get a commission. The word guide has a negative image. Unless that is worked on and they focus on ensuring quality tourism bringing in people who are interested in learning more about the place, nothing will change.”
Savio Messais, a hotelier who has been in the business for a while said the move by the government was commendable but it was not possible to achieve the numbers. He said “In the last seven years we have been able to conduct two courses after great effort. Each course had twenty five students of which half of them were employees of the tourism department who were tourist guides but did not have the qualification because such courses were not conducted for many years. Now if you want to have one thousand people registering, it will be quite difficult for them to travel for fifteen days to attend this course. The course material is outdated”. He said it was important to also focus on other factors that made a tourist guide. He said skills like effective public speaking, good manners and etiquette were important. It would be an asset to have guides; he said who knew a foreign language. He said a Japanese group had to hire the services of a translator from Mumbai when they came to Goa. Here he felt Goa University could help by providing training.
Another senior executive who did not want to be named alluded to the fact that there was a mafia consisting of the old guides who wanted the situation to continue as it was at present. The guides he said were more like people escorting the guests around the monument rather than being a guide.
It is obvious much remains to be done in this aspect and one can only hope this initiative by the government bears some fruit.