The recent spike in Brunei’s tourist arrivals has created demand for quality tour guides who are knowledgeable and able to portray the “right image” of Brunei, said a senior tourism official. 

Brunei currently has 127 licensed tourist guides, out of which, 59 are freelancers. The majority of them work with the 54 licensed travel agents in the country.

Wardi Hj Mohammad Ali, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT), said there is no specific target for the number of tour guides to be trained, as it depends on industry growth. The recent growth, however, presents an opportunity for those seeking employment in the tourism industry.

“At the moment, we need not only Malay and English speaking tour guides but also guides who are able to speak Chinese [languages] to meet our growing market from China,” he said.

Brunei is targeting 278,000 tourist arrivals this year, which is estimated to bring in over $140 million in tourism dollars.

Latest statistics from the Tourism Development Department show that as of November 2017, a total of 238,150 tourists visited the sultanate bringing in $77 million, compared to 218,809 visitors in 2016.

Visitors from Malaysia, China and the Philippines represented the top three visitor sources in 2017.

MPRT Deputy Permanent Secretary Wardi Hj Mohammad Ali (3rd L, front) in a group photo with participants of courses for tour guides. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The deputy permanent secretary was speaking during a certificate presentation ceremony yesterday to 13 individuals who have completed the Tourist Guide Basic Course and the Tourist Guide Bridging Course.

Aspiring tour guides must complete the 21-day Tourist Guide Basic Course in order to apply for a Tourist Guide Licence, as outlined under current legislation.  

Both courses are facilitated by Laksamana College of Business (LCB), in collaboration with the Tourism Development Department. The trainers are accredited by World Federation of Tourist Guides Association.

The cost of the basic course is priced at $1,000, but LCB plans to make the course more affordable by shortening the length to two weeks.

Under Brunei law, tour guides must hold a valid license or they may face a fine of up to $5,000. A licence is valid for up to three years and prior to renewal, the guides are required to sit in for a refreshers course.

According to Tourism Officer Nor-Irrafidah Hj Ismail, no errant tour guides have been fined yet because the legislation was only introduced recently. 

“We want to give a grace period to travel agents to ensure all their staff is properly trained and licensed with us. This is because the Tourism Order was given to us in October 2016 and we [began] enforcing it in January 2017 last year.” 

She added: “Freelance tourist guides are also not allowed to sell tours. They can only sell their expertise to licensed travel agents.”

Nor-Irrafidah said MPRT has asked travel agencies to be transparent and disclose whether their tour guides have attended the courses, which are organised every six months. 

“There may be periods in between where the tourist guides are in demand. Therefore, if their tourist guides are not yet licensed with us, they are required to inform us so that the enforcement team will not take action against them.”