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Tour guides set to give Brunei a fresh outlook

BRUNEI’S tourism drive is poised to get a professional outlook as the government is set to grant tour guide licences to 67 trained individuals which will provide a fresh impetus to the Sultanate’s efforts to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, leveraging on the country’s vast natural endowments and cultural heritage.

It is also a successful realisation of one of the commitments made by the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) to promote the country to the world and the licence is a blank gift cheque to Brunei’s educated jobseekers who can now proudly flash the tour guide title as a respectable entry in their job profile.

The 67 individuals completed the basic tourist guide course facilitated by Laksamana College of Business (LCB) in collaboration with the MPRT, and will soon be granted tour guide licences by the ministry.

They received their certificates of course completion from Wardi bin Haji Mohammad Ali, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Tourism) at the MPRT, in a ceremony held at LCB’s premises in Jalan Kota Batu yesterday.

The newly accredited tour guides comprise staff from travel and tourism agencies in the country as well as LCB’s hospitality and tourism course students.

Wardi bin Haji Muhammad Ali, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Tourism) at the MPRT presenting the tour guide course certificate to Nurul Izzah Hazwani

Tourist guide courses given to local tourist guides should integrate basic foreign language skills training to enable them to communicate better with non-English-speaking tourists to the Sultanate, said Nurul Izzah Hazwani, 30, a student who underwent the recently concluded one-month basic tourist guide course, yesterday.

In an interview with the Sunday Bulletin, she said that with the influx of tourists from the Asian region in the last few years – notably from China, Korea and Japan – incorporating a basic teaching of the native language of these tourists in the courses would be tremendously advantageous, especially when the tourists don’t speak English.

“It will make it easier for us to communicate with them,” she added.

Nurul, who is a full-time teacher and part-time tourist guide during the weekends, also shared that the language courses would increase the chances of tour guides being employed in the tourism industry, pointing out that some companies prefer to hire guides who can speak other languages.

“For example, one company which interviewed me said they prefer someone who can speak in Korean language,” she said.

Statistics released earlier this year by the Tourism Development Department revealed that the Far East region is the only market that has continued to show positive growth – at 10.4 per cent, with a large contribution from countries such as South Korea, China, Japan and Hong Kong. Tourists from China account for the second-most number of tourist arrivals in the country.

As someone new to the industry, Nurul said her working as a tourist guide has increased her knowledge about Brunei.

“I realised that as a Bruneian, I don’t have a lot of knowledge about the country – especially the interesting places, heritage and history, and through this course I have learnt a lot,” she said, adding that she loves the job as it gives her the opportunity to promote Brunei’s culture to her friends abroad.

Simon Keenan, Head of Business and Hospitality Department at LCB, in his welcoming speech explained that the month-long course, which began in November last year, has till February this year been taken by four batches of students.

Included in the course are tours to places of interest in the country (by bus or boat) such as historical places like museums, overnight stays with nature and a full first aid course.

Through the programme, Keenan said that students will be able to gain a better picture of the scope of tasks as a tourist guide, as well as increase their confidence, presentation skills and communication skills. It also gives them the opportunity to work in a team, improve time management skills and help stay up-to-date with their knowledge on Brunei, ie historical facts.

Another course finisher, Mims Sidi, 21, a student who has been involved in the hospitality and tourism field since his ‘A’ Level and college days, said that it has always been his deep-rooted passion to work in the tourism industry. He added that his inspiration to get into the profession came from his penchant for telling stories to people, particularly visitors.

“We studied about how Brunei was formed, for instance how our relationship with the Chinese dates back centuries. It was a very interesting and fun experience because you get to learn new things everyday and this makes you better appreciate your own country,” Sidi added.

Sharing his views on how the course has benefited him, Sidi said that besides boosting his self-confidence, the course was great as he got the chance to travel to many beautiful places around the country.

“Brunei has many places that are still unknown, probably due to lack of exposure. This is where this course is helpful because we get to know these places,” he said.

Another beneficial aspect of the course, Sidi said, is that it helps boost his marketability in the job market, especially with the unemployment problem and rising job competition today.