A program to apply star ranking for tour guides on the basis of their capacity, knowledge and experience–the first of its kind in Vietnam–will begin this month, the Vietnam Tourism Association (VNTA) said on Thursday.
The program, financially supported by the EU, was kick-started at a conference co-hosted by the VNTA, the Vietnam Association of Tour Guides (VATG) and the Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Association in Ho Chi Minh City.
The tour guide ranking program will evaluate the overall performance of tour guides and encourage them to improve their skills and upgrade service quality, just like hotel’s star-rating system, according to the VNTA.
During its pilot phase, the program will assess the performance of tour guides in Ho Chi Minh City from October 22 to 24, in Hanoi and the northern Vietnamese province of Quang Ninh in November, and some other localities such as the south-central province of Khanh Hoa and the northern province of Lao Cai in December.
The candidates will receive ratings ranging from three-star, equal to a silver tier, four-star, equal to a gold tier, and five-star meaning a platinum tier from assessment that tests their guiding capacity, knowledge and skills.
According to VNTA deputy chairman Vu The Binh, the ranking program will be scaled up next year for more complete regulations and criteria that will help attract all tour guides in Vietnam to join, as only VATG members are currently eligible for the program.
In response to the program, Nguyen Tien Dat, director of TransViet travel company, hailed it as “a good approach.”
From the angle of a tourism business, Dat thinks that the program will partially play as a reference for enterprises when it comes to recruiting tour guides.
However, Dat also argued that the most important qualities of a tour guide that employers require are the working attitude and professional ethics, which cannot be graded or ranked through testing and evaluation.
In the meantime, the tour guides are also not very excited about the launch of this ranking program.
They believe that ratings are only for new tour guides seeking better job opportunities as skilled tour guides are usually overwhelmed with many job offers, so ranking is unnecessary to them.
According to the Vietnam News Agency, more than 23,000 licensed tour guides in Vietnam are currently serving international and domestic tours, but only five percent of them are contracted with travel firms and get monthly salaries and social insurance coverage, while the rest are freelancers.