BANGKOK, 30 June 2015: Professional Tourist Guide Association of Thailand says the Department of Tourism should delay a plan to dress all registered guides in Thailand in uniforms.
Last Friday, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Department of Tourism announced it would introduce uniforms to help identify registered guides and add more pressure on those who guide illegally.
The guides association president, Wirote Sitaprasertnand, told TTR Weekly that the new regulation due to start, 1 October, received a mixed response from guides, some saying they support the move, while others objecting in principle to the need to wear a uniform.
“The measure was discussed some years back, but without warning the department now says it is going ahead. It should have called for tour guide cooperation and feedback on the subject of uniforms before enforcing the rule.”
He added: “The new rule should be more flexible as there are various guide catagories…some are company employed, but others are freelancers…some companies have their own uniforms…the regulation needs to be clear.”
Tour companies will have to foot the uniform bill and in the case of freelance guides they will have to buy their own uniforms.
Critics say there is already an adequate way to identify a registered guide. They carry an identity card that they wear when on duty. Uniforms or IDs can be copied so there is no guarantee that the scheme will help to resolve the issue of illegal guides.
Compliance and enforcement of existing laws would resolve the issue. It has even been suggested in the past that Tourist Police should patrol and enforce the law on guides, arresting illegal guides on the spot.
But association’s president noted that foreigners would be able to identify a guide more easily if they were wearing a uniform.
He advised: “The tourism department should take it step-by-step to enforce the rule such as setting a single day of the week to wear the uniform or when guides visit the Grand Palace.”
Association of Domestic Travel president and Tourism Council of Thailand’s Domestic Marketing vice president, Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, told TTR Weekly that the new regulation under the Tour and Guide Business Act require all local tour guides to wear uniforms and it is expected the measure will help to crackdown illegal tour guide.
“The scheme will help to identify who is legal and who is not…it will scare foreign illegal tour guides… they may have to wear the uniform and if they do it will be easier to catch them.”
The uniform is in fact only a shirt, available with both short and long sleeves and both western and Thai styles. The western-style shirt bears the word “Thai” repeated in both Thai and English on white fabric. The Thai style is in plain shades of pale blue.
The new rule will require about 50,000 tour guides to wear the uniform along with their tour guide badges. But tour guides will be given a grace period until 31 December to acquire shirts or blouses.
After 1 January 2016, guides who fail to wear the uniform while on duty will be fined THB10,000.
That would require teams of officials to be on duty at tourist attractions to catch illegal guides “red-handed” or they would need to use undercover agents to video offenders and then arrest them at their hotels in the case of foreign guides.