Sat 31 Dec 2011
Filed under: Inside Burma
Tour guides are calling for an overhaul of a newly formed industry association that they say is imposing “unreasonable” and “ridiculous” regulations on their work.
U Htun Myat, a spokesman for the Myanmar Tourist Guide Association (MTGA), said many guides refused to accept new regulations that require them to wear uniforms, attend refresher courses and work according to a roster set by the association.
Four of the 11 founding executive committee members, including secretary Daw Chaw Chaw Kye Mon, have already quit the MTGA over the controversial new rules and U Htun Myat said elections should be held for all senior positions to reform the association.
“We are not against the association – I’m even involved as an information officer. But we can’t keep going in this direction in the long term. Most tour guides don’t accept the way this association has been established and the way it has operated. We want to elect a new chairman and executive committee members if we can,” he said.
The MTGA was founded on May 16 and has about 700 members. However, this number is likely to rise as the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has said it will not renew the licences of guides who are not association members or do not attend the refresher courses.
U Than Htun Oo, a freelance German and English-language tour guide, said at a press conference last week that the proposed roster system, where the association assigns tour guides to clients, was “ridiculous”. He said many guides who supported the formation of an association were also unhappy at being forced to join.
“The association wants to impose this roster system upon us but we object to their plan,” he said. “The tourism industry is growing rapidly so there will be many competitors. If you are clever and experienced you will receive many clients. It’s true that those who don’t have much experience or skill might be left behind.”
U Than Htun Oo and many tour guides did not believe the association was working for their interests and were particularly upset about the compulsory uniform instruction.
“Most tour guides think this uniform is unnecessary … we already wear traditional dress during our tours. And for ethnic tour guides, foreigners love it if they wear their traditional dress. It is a big attraction for them,” he said.
“There are more than 3000 tour guides in Myanmar and about one-third are involved in the association. At the start we believed this association would represent us and solve our problems and difficulties but it has done nothing of the sort. We are particularly sad that the founding of the association created conflict among tour guides who used to be very friendly with each other.”
But MTGA chairwoman Daw Htay Htay Tin defended the regulations introduced by the association. She said last week the details of the roster system were yet to be finalised but both it and the refresher courses were necessary and would continue.
She said the association would elect a new chair next year and would continue to cooperate with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
“The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism provided K10 million to establish the association and we opened it under their direction. We are giving refresher courses to tour guides because we want to let them know the rules and regulations concerning tour guides, our future plans and improve their knowledge about tourist destinations,” she said.
Daw Htay Htay Tin said guides had overreacted to a controversial article in Kyemon newspaper about the conduct of tour guides. “I said anybody can complain if they see corrupt tour guides but I don’t have the authority to punish them. I won’t do that – but the authorities might,” she said, referring to the widespread practice of taking commission from shops and restaurants.