Thursday, October 20, 2005

On tourist guides

Most of us who have ever visited any tourist destination will observe how fragmented the guide industry is; in fact there is no industry. To most Indians, guides are just glib talking touts and that is unfortunate.

Guides can be more than just glib talkers. They are ones who introduce a monument to a tourist, take the tourist around and a lot of tourist perception on a monument is built by the
guide. They are the tourist ambassadors, yet, its an area that is badly neglected at most tourist spots in India.

Why not train college students to become guides? It is perhaps the best way to learn "public speaking" (and get paid for it) than go to a public speaking course. If I had such an opportunity, I would grab it during my vacations. There is opportunity out there for someone who can train college students and send them alongwith tourists every vacation.

My personal experience with guides has been mixed. Either they spin their own yarn around the monument (our guide at Golconda fort) or they are there to make a quick buck (Sravanabelagola). The guide we hired recently at Belur was the best of the lot and thats not saying much.

I avoid taking guides and prefer to take my own reference material to read through about the monument at leisure. But a guide can be a valuable asset. Well trained, he can guide the tourist through the new place, make him feel at home and even assist him in purchases (today it is mostly fleecing and commission driven). About time we had a professional guide service at monuments or make the monument so self explanatory that there is no need for guides.

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