Tour guide voices concern on the future of his profession

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Logan Munusamy, a tour guide in Singapore, posted his concern on the Facebook post made by Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, Desmond Choo on 4 January.

Choo stated his concern about but the netizen voiced much dire situation which the MP has not replied.

In his post, Mr Choo wrote that the Attractions, Resorts & Entertainment Union (AREU) was informed that the Raffles Country Club (RCC) site in Tuas will be acquired by authorities for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project and noted that the workers at the country club would likely lose their jobs.

He wrote that AREU will work closely with the RCC management as the workers might face difficult times and  ensure the affected workers are fairly compensated If retrenchment is inevitable.

"Our union leaders and Industrial Relations Officers will be on-site to guide workers through these difficult and uncertain times."

He further noted that AREU will provide job placement assistance for the affected workers together with NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute).

"The union will continue to stand by the side of our loyal workers to meet these challenges head on and work together to chart a new path for them." wrote Mr Choo.

Apart from his position as MP, Mr Choo is also a director of the Industrial Relations Department, and concurrently Director of the Youth Development Unit at the National Trades Union Congress.

In response to Mr Choo's post, Logan asked about the protection that his profession is being given.

He noted that there is about 2,700 licensed tour guides being in Singapore but only 70 to 80 guides are engaged to work daily at an average of 4 hours daily. This is despite the fact that there are 15 million tourists per annum visiting Singapore.

"What went wrong with the system? Can MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) offer an explanation to our Union?" wrote Logan.

He added, ever since the announcement by Singapore Tourism Board (STB) stating that points of transfer no longer need to have tour guides to accompany, the illegal guides are taking up their jobs.

Under STB's regulation for tour guides, any person wanting to be a licensed Tourist Guide has to undergo the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Tourist Guide (TG) Course provided by Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) approved training providers and pass all the relevant assessments before they could be issued with a Tourist Guide licence. The applicant will also have to pay $72 for the license which will be renewed every three years.

Logan further pointed that the wages of tour guides have not been regulated or restructured for 18 years and is fact, going lower. He points that the union should look into this matter and asked how many times have the wages of STB employees or the Union staffs, been raised and revised over the 18 years.

To Mr Choo's credit, he asked in Parliament about the enforcement of the unlicensed tour guides back in April 2016 and also about the measures that the Ministry have and will be taking to regulate against unlicensed tour guides from diluting the quality of tour guide services in Singapore.

In response to his query, Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr S Iswaran replied that the STB takes a serious view against unlicensed tourist guides. The STB (Amendment) Act 2014, which came into effect in October 2014, strengthened the powers to investigate and compound offences by STB enforcement officers and increased the penalties for unlicensed guiding offences, to more effectively deter illegal tourist guiding activities.

Mr S Iswaran added that STB has stepped up enforcement action against unlicensed tourist guides over the past years and enforcement checks have increased by more than five times from 225 in 2013 to 1,245 in 2015.

He noted that since 2013, one licensed travel agent and its director were convicted and fined for engaging unlicensed tour guides to conduct tours, while six unlicensed tourist guides were convicted and fined $1,500 or more for each offence.

However, Logan in his comment, points that he sees 70 to 80 coaches daily loaded with tourists going for shopping without a licensed guide at Bugis Plus.

"Where is the so-called enforcement of 24/7. Many shops, restaurants, travel agents are closing down yet nothing is being done. This is employability we are talking about. What went wrong and why this policy is not repealed as it is bringing financial losses in many sectors. No countries will their destroy their tour guides livelihood. Please abolish such slanted policies as it is not regulated fairly."

Here is what Logan wrote in full:

How about Tour Guide Chapter Areu.?
Our guides had been left to fend for themselves. There are about 2,700 licensed tour guides in Spore but only 70 to 80 guides are engaged to work daily at an average of 4 hours daily. What went wrong with the system ? Can MTI offer an explanation to our Union ? Ever since STB announced all points of transfer no need to have guides, illegals are doing our jobs.

Why STB didn't announce the same, for all points of transfer no need to have Travel agents? In view of high tourism arrival of 15 million per annum why so few guides are working?

We see 70 to 80 vans daily loaded with tourist coming for shopping without a licensed guide at Bugis plus . Where is the so called enforcement of 24/7. Many shops, restaurants, travel agents are closing down yet nothing is being done. This is employability we are talking about. What went wrong and why this policy is not repealed as it is bringing financial losses in many sectors. No countries will their destroy their tour guides livelihood. Please abolish such slanted policies as it is not regulated fairly. More attractions will close down and tourist will choose other destinations if this ridiculous policies are not abolished. Can MTI tell us why so few guides are working daily? Is there vibrancy in Quality tourism. Hotel restaurants are bleeding as not many tourist will have lunch or dinner in the hotel . Why? Down sizing of f&b staffs, stretching long hours will make any employees sick.

Tour guide wages had not been regulated or restructured for 18 years. In fact, its going lower and lower. The Union should be able to look into this matter. How many times STB employees or the Union staffs salary had been raised and revised over the 18 years? Can you all work for free?

We are volunteers and we have to forgo our jobs and attend futile meetings where none of you will bother to bring the relevant authorities to task or make them take liability for such high unemployment in our industry caused by them for their own interest. Neighbouring countries are saying we don't need a guide and now they are saying we don't need a travel agent either. Meaning its free for all and anyone can conduct tours here. Tax payers money is being put to waste asking guides to go for courses after courses with no yield. Foreigners can be a guide here easily. Undesirable elements may apply to be guides here too. When a illegal conduct a tour is this an authorise operation? Will the tourist insurers ask this question if there is a mishap? A policy which is not fairly regulated must be abolished.