According to Nguyen Duc Chi, Deputy Head of the Travel Division under the Ho Chi Minh city (HCM City) Department for Culture, Sports, and Tourism, 1,684 international tour guides in the city have practicing cards. However, some 3,000 people are working as tour guides.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), in 2009, Vietnam had some one million workers in the tourism industry, including 262,200 workers in tourism management agencies and travel firms, and 737,800 workers in fields relating to tourism. It is estimated that by 2015, the number of tourism industry workers will reach 500,000.
However, experts have warned that the number is still very small compared to the rapid development of the tourism industry in recent years and the expected development in upcoming years.
Reports on the tourism industry labor force in 2000, 2005, and 2009 showed that 9.7 percent of tourism workers have university and higher-level education. Meanwhile, 51 percent of workers finished junior colleges or vocational schools (two-year training). Of those, only 43 percent of workers have attended training courses on the tourism profession, while 57 percent either followed other study branches or did not attend tourism training courses.
48 percent of workers can speak at least one foreign language, which is relatively high in comparison with other industries. However, experts point out that 48 percent is not a high percentage for an industry that serves domestic and foreign tourists. Moreover, tourism industry workers mostly speak English, while very few can speak less common languages.
Quality of labor force remains problematic
Vo Thi Cam Nhung, Lecturer of the Saigon Tourism Vocational School admitted that in many cases, students graduating from tourism schools still cannot meet the requirements for their jobs.
“Though schools try to provide knowledge to students, students still have to improve themselves once they are in their jobs,” she said.
In order to improve the qualifications of tour guides, a competition to find the best tour guide was held in HCM City late last week. According to Huynh Cong Thang, Headmaster of the HCM City Arts and Theatre Junior College and Head of the Jury Board for the competition, a high percentage of tourism workers still cannot meet the requirements to become good international tour guides.
“We raised questions to candidates which required them to show their general knowledge, but many of them gave up,” he said.
“Due to their limited knowledge, tour guides in many cases unintentionally “kill” the cultural value of historical destinations or relics. This leads to tourists, especially foreign tourists, misunderstanding the value of the sites,” Thang said
“As a member of the jury board, I want to express concern about the qualifications of tour guides,” said Nhung.
In 2009, the number of foreign tourists to HCM City accounted for 60 percent of the total number of tourists travel to Vietnam. Tourism is now an important sector that contributes substantially to the city’s economic growth.
In 2010, HCM City plans to receive three million foreign tourists, an increase of 15 percent over 2009. The city now has 60 3-5 star hotels, 147 2-star and 500 1-star hotels.
Source: Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon