The 2006 Law on Tourism stipulates that tour guides are required to hold bachelor’s degrees. Graduates from two-year colleges or vocational schools are ineligible, a restriction the working group is urging to be waived.
Half of the 6,000 Vietnam tour guides now working are doing so on a temporary basis since they are not university graduates, the group notes. Many of these speak such languages as Japanese, Italian, Spanish or German and have proven their skills in on-the-job performance.
"But some temporary permits are out of date, and it always takes time for a permit to be re-granted," said the deputy director of the International Travel Co, Trinh My Nghe. "It should be simpler in those times we are in short of guides, such as during the peak travel season."
Quach Phong Hue, a student in his final year at a Hanoi-based vocational school, said he wanted to become a tour guide but was afraid his educational level would not meet the legal requirements.
"I don’t know which one is more important, qualifications or capability," Hue said.
But the director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) travel department, Vu The Binh, said qualifications were crucial for tour guides, whom he described as the "core force" of the Vietnam travel industry.
"They represent the nation in welcoming guests from other countries, and they must possess a high intellectual level and professionalism, as well as language and communications skills," Binh said. "A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement."
Binh agreed, however, the 2006 Law on Tourism did not reflect the large numbers of students now receiving vocational training in tourism.
"When the law was drafted, Vietnam didn’t have any schools specialised in training tour guides, so human resources for the industry had to be recruited from other spheres before given a short course on tourism," he said.
However, in the past four years, more schools have offered courses on travel and tourism, and the graduates of these two-year programmes are often better than those professionally trained for a couple of months.
"Recognising the problem, the VNAT has proposed to lower the requirement to a two-year college degree," Binh said. "But the change won’t come overnight."
A Vietnam travel agency representative who asked to have her name withheld said she was also unhappy with another provision in the current law which required even university graduates to be certified in a foreign language before being permitted to work as tour guides.
"I myself studied for five years at the University of Tourism. We spent the last two years studying a foreign language, which should be better than a certificate," she said.
"I think the clients are the best judges of a tour guides’ work."
Over 2.9 million international visitors travel to Vietnam at moment, up from 2.17 million in the same period last year, according to the VNAT. The country has targeted 4.2 million foreign visitors in 2010.
(Source: VietNamNet )