According to the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (WFTGA), a tour guide is a person who guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of an area which person normally possesses an area-specific qualification usually issued and/or recognized by the appropriate authority.
A tour manager/tour director or escort is defined as a person who manages an itinerary on behalf of the tour operator ensuring the programme is carried out as described in the tour operator’s literature and sold to the traveller/consumer and who gives local practical information.
The WFTGA's Code of Guiding Practice: https://wftga.org/about-us/the-code-of-guiding-practice/
endeavor to do the following:
- Provide a professional service to visitors, professional in care and commitment, and professional in providing an objective understanding of the place visited, free from prejudice or propaganda.
- Ensure that as far as possible what is presented as fact is true and that a clear distinction is made between this truth and stories, legends, traditions, or opinions.
- Act fairly and reasonably in all dealings with all those who engage the services of guides and with colleagues working in all aspects of tourism.
- Protect the reputation of tourism in our country by making every endeavor to ensure that guided groups treat the environment, wildlife, sights and monuments, and also local customs and sensitivities with respect.
- As representatives of the host country to welcome visitors and act in such a way as to bring credit to the country visited and promote it as a tourist destination.
This code provides sturdy ethical guidelines for tour guides to follow:
Tour guides have a serious responsibility in tackling the challenges of sustainability in the tourism industry. The tour guide is at the frontline of educating travellers and local populations alike; they must exemplify sustainable travel behavior that will aid towards protecting our (tourism) resources. The tour guide is the intermediary between the tourist and the tourist attraction, as well as the tourist and the tour company. Equally critically, the tour guide is also the intermediary between a local individual or community, and the strangers that come to visit. Guides must disseminate appropriate information and lead through actions that pave the way to sustainability.
Guides can look to other guides and companies for best-practice ideas.
Tour guides have an obligation to not facilitate hunting where it is prohibited, and to educate guests about souvenirs and ethical shopping (eg. purchasing products such as ivory resulting from animal poaching). Tour guides must also be responsible for ensuring that their guests are not vehicles for trafficking.
Many countries will list what is prohibited to take out, for example in Zambia it is any ivory, skins, scales and tusks and plants and carries a 5 year jail sentence.
BEST POLICY – LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH
Leave only footprints - Motivating your customers to care about the environment can be achieved by sharing your knowledge and passion and therefore creating a shared responsibility.
Limiting impact on environment - Having face-to-face contact with visitors means that you are perfectly placed to influence customers whilst they are with you and how they will continue to value the environment in the future.
Choosing souvenirs and spending locally - You can help your customers to choose better quality souvenirs that support local producers that don’t cost the earth. The right messages to get across include the following:
- Food and drink produce - oil, wine, vinegar, honey, fruit preserves
- Handcrafted jewellery
- Arts and crafts: wood carvings, traditional paintings and handicrafts all make great keepsakes and gifts. (Ensure that you know about any goods to avoid that are made from protected species eg. tropical hardwoods)
- Advise not to buy products:
- Made from endangered or wild animals and plants including coral, shells, starfish, horns, teeth and animal skins and fur - If in doubt, don’t buy.
- T-shirts - These are often imported and will not offer a significant benefit to the local economy.
- Plastic items - (eg. key-rings, badges, snow-domes) take millions of years to break down and are a threat to our entire ecosystem. Plus, most plastic souvenirs aren’t manufactured locally, they’re imported from factories elsewhere.
Advise your guests on how to negotiate fair prices – ‘Haggling’ can be fun and some negotiation is expected by vendors in a market situation, however, you can point out that a small saving to a customer can mean a lot to someone in a destination. You can support your guests by teaching them a few phrases in the local language to help them to have a more enjoyable shopping experience and take a greater interest in the local culture.
Taking photographs responsibly – people & animals
Tourists taking photographs of local people can sometimes cause offence. It is always best to facilitate introductions and encourage interaction between your customers and the hosts. For example, encouraging visitors to take part in an activity and take an interest in the surroundings and the situation. Explaining to your customers the best way to ask permission for taking photographs and the types of pictures that they can take is the best approach. Tell them the phrases in Local language so that they can ask permission for things like taking photos or if they are not confident tell them to ask you the guide to ask on their behalf. If you and your guests are likely to encounter a situation where there is an opportunity to have their photo taken with wild captive animals it is really important that you explain why it is not helpful to the animals. These animals are often taken from the wild when young, and then mistreated and killed when they get too large or difficult to handle.
Some tourists need a lot of help to understand the local culture; you can tell them stories behind traditions or talk about a particular member of the community so that they feel a personal connection and can relate to what they are being told.
You can also carry small items / artefacts to pass around for the customers to look at. To keep children interested you could carry small, traditional toys and puzzles or explain games that they can play to get them involved with learning and appreciating the local culture. These practical tips will help customers to have an interactive learning experience and can help to breakdown language barriers.
Sometimes, tourists want to offer something to the communities they visit but their gifts are not always appropriate. You are the best person to explain this as you understand the culture and needs of local residents although you should always work with them to make sure you understand this correctly.
Promote ways to support local projects that are working to improve local conditions or identify much needed items that can be exchanged or donated.
Here are some tips:
Items such as sweets/candy are not appropriate to give as gifts as these are bad for health.
- Avoid demonstrating material wealth for example showing off expensive technology and items that can cause people to feel inferior.
- Being prepared is essential to ensure that both customers and local people feel comfortable in each other’s company.
- Appropriate dress often requires covering shoulders and legs and removing shoes, particularly in places of worship.
- You should prepare suitable vocabulary to use with different types of guests to ensure that the message is not perceived as patronizing or offensive.
Dealing with hassle
In some situations, tourists encounter ‘hassle’ which could make them feel intimidated and affect the quality of their experience and potentially make them feel unsafe. It is really important to firstly understand about the causes of hassle and to give your customers correct information.
Sometimes members of communities find it hard to access tourism jobs or get frustrated when they see tourists spending money which they can’t access, and so instead find less formal ways to make money, like selling souvenirs on the streets or on the beach, or by offering unofficial guided tours and excursions.
These informal approaches can lead to positive experiences but they can also be negative especially if they are continually ‘hassled’ by many vendors trying to sell things they don’t want to buy.
To help your guests to feel confident about interacting with locals, and deal with hassle fairly so that it doesn't ruin their experience here are some top tips that you can share with them:
- Walk with purpose.
- If you are followed or offered unwanted ‘help’, a polite but firm "no thank you" or "I would like to walk alone" should work.
- Sometimes, local children follow tourists, begging, or expecting 'gifts'. Rather than giving money, gifts or sweets to children, which could make them more reliant on tourists, remember that the best way to help is to pass on any money, books, notepads or pencils to a school or project so that they can be distributed fairly and without disrupting daily routines or lessons.
Different cultures have different concepts of personal space - tourists may feel people are too close to them when they speak or touch their arms when they talk to them. Small talk often includes personal questions which might be considered quite intrusive - questions like ''How old are you?'', ''Are you married?''. Advise not to take these questions or the lack of personal space too personally and enjoy the natural inquisitiveness local people have towards tourists.
Tips for Guests
- Respecting local dress codes
- Keep valuable items hidden will help customers to draw less attention to themselves
- Recommend that visitors carry some local currency separately from their wallets so that they are not displaying their credit cards and all their money whilst shopping
- Advise customers if there are any particular traps to be aware of such as gifts or help that could lead them into unsafe situations
- Never say “maybe later” or “maybe tomorrow” as this could be taken as a promise. A firm but polite "no, thank you" perhaps in the local language will make it clear that a tourist is not interested in the offer.
Give your customers advice on the local ‘tipping’ culture so that they do not overpay for meals and trips but also do not cause offense
Animal attractions and experiences are generally very popular with tourists; research and experience also demonstrate that customers want to be assured of good animal welfare standards that are comparable with the standards in their home countries.
If animal attractions or interactions are not carefully managed or do not exhibit best practice, there is the potential to jeopardise animal welfare or the customer experience.
It is important to understand that there are particular animal welfare practices and hence types of attractions and experiences that should be avoided.
For comprehensive animal welfare guidance and to learn about specific animal environments and best practices, please refer to the Animal Welfare guidance published by ABTA (the UK’s largest travel association, representing travel agents and tour operators).
If you have any concerns regarding animal welfare, always report them to the relevant ground agent and or tour operator. Concerns can also be reported to The Born Free Foundation via their Travellers Animal Alert Initiative.
By providing the means to travel, and the accommodation, the tourism industry unfortunately can provide access to vulnerable children. Child sex tourism is the commercial sexual exploitation of children by men or women who travel from one place to another, to engage in sexual acts with children. The abuse can happen anywhere, not just in places known for prostitution.
It is extremely important that you know how to recognise any signs of child exploitation and what role you can play in helping to protect children as a travel industry professional.
For more information please see www.thecode.org
( “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism”).
ECPAT UK and ABTA have developed an online training course that is free for anyone to use. 'Every Child Everywhere' is designed to help travel industry staff protect children, making travel a positive experience for all.
Reporting crime and bad practice
The sexual exploitation of a child by a tourist is a criminal offense in all destinations. If you witness a situation you can report it via the report child sex tourism website - https://www.ecpat.org.nz/reportchild-sex-tourism
Child protection also covers child labor and this can be harder to identify if children are working behind the scenes perhaps in accommodation, catering, or attractions.
In some community-based attractions, children may be present, however, it should be clear that their involvement in tourism does not prevent them from attending lessons or having time to play and you should be prepared to answer any questions from tourists.
If you have any concerns, you should again investigate this through the appropriate channels.
Ntanda Ventures Limited,
P.O. Box 11014, Chingola, Zambia
Cell : +260 966 904376 | +260 968 043 017