KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun wants more focus be given to training professional tour guides who could better explain and promote Sabah’s tourism attractions to visitors.
“For us in Sabah, especially as we continue to attract visitors from around the world, a tourist guide remains an important ambassador for our country – and this what we must focus on,” he said.
Expressing hope the tourism industry would continue to recognise the value of having licensed, professional tourist guides at their helm, Masidi said tourist guides had always played a key role in Sabah tourism by organizing, coordinating and interpreting visits to places of interest.
Even though the mix of travellers and tourists in Sabah has changed over the years, he stressed the guide has continued to play an integral role in the industry.
In fact, with the advent of special interest tourism, he said more and more tourists sought specialists who can interpret and explain in detail the natural history, culture and biodiversity of a place they are visiting.
“Trust me, here in Sabah most of our pioneer guides have played a very important role in the development of the tourism industry, for which remain in debt. We value your expertise, we thank you for your services, and when we lose you, we mourn your loss.
“Just a few months ago, we lost a valuable friend and a brilliant tourist guide, Liliam Agama, who was so knowledgeable in natural history and biodiversity. Above all, professional at all times, as we witnessed during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Danum Valley,” he said this in his officiating speech for the launch of WFTGA International Training Centre at Universiti Malaysia Sabah yesterday.
The text of his speech was delivered by Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming who also officiated at the centre on his behalf.
The World Federation of Tourist Guides Association (WFTGA) based at UMS is only the second in the world after the Centre at University of Cyprus.
It was set up as a result of a tripartite partnership between WFTGA, Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA) and UMS, who sealed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) during the 15th WFTGA Convention held in Macau in January last year.
In conjunction with the launch of the centre, an inaugural training course involving 24 participants was held at the university.
The two-week course held since April 6 comprises ‘Hands on Tourist Guiding’ and ‘Train the Trainer’ components, which focus on improving guiding and communication skills.
Deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Dr Shahril Yusof in representing vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah at the launch, said the setting up of the centre was a remarkable achievement for UMS and for all those involved.
“We are pleased to have been given this opportunity to collaborate with the tourism industry, particularly in the field of education and training four tourist guides. As a seat of learning, it is a mark of utmost recognition when the industry seeks to collaborate with a local university,” he said.
Shahril said Tourism Management and Business lecturers from the School of Business and Economics at UMS would be involved in the courses to be organized at the centre by sharing the theoretical elements of their expertise with participating experienced tourist guides.