Viet Nam is in short supply of tour guides with
diverse language skills, but a working group set up by the Prime Minister says
that regulations setting stiff professional requirements for guides are
exacerbating the shortage.
A tour guide takes tourists through Thien Cung Cave in Ha Long Bay. Strict
regulations require tour guides in Viet Nam to have university degrees. (Photo:
The 2006 Law on Tourism stipulates that tour guides are required to hold
bachelor’s degrees. Graduates from two-year colleges or vocational schools are
ineligible, a restriction the working group is urging to be waived.
Half of the 6,000 tour guides now working are doing so on a temporary basis
since they are not university graduates, the group notes. Many of these speak
such languages as Japanese, Italian, Spanish or German and have proven their
skills in on-the-job performance.
"But some temporary permits are out of date, and it always takes time for a
permit to be re-granted," said the deputy director of the International Travel
Co, Trinh My Nghe. "It should be simpler in those times we are in short of
guides, such as during the peak travel season."
Quach Phong Hue, a student in his final year at a Ha Noi-based vocational
school, said he wanted to become a tour guide but was afraid his educational
level would not meet the legal requirements.
"I don’t know which one is more important, qualifications or capability," Hue
But the director of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism travel
department, Vu The Binh, said qualifications were crucial for tour guides, whom
he described as the "core force" of the tourism industry.
"They represent the nation in welcoming guests from other countries, and they
must possess a high intellectual level and professionalism, as well as language
and communications skills," Binh said. "A bachelor’s degree is a minimum
Binh agreed, however, the 2006 Law on Tourism did not reflect the large numbers
of students now receiving vocational training in tourism.
"When the law was drafted, Viet Nam didn’t have any schools specialised in
training tour guides, so human resources for the industry had to be recruited
from other spheres before given a short course on tourism," he said.
However, in the past four years, more schools have offered courses on travel and
tourism, and the graduates of these two-year programmes are often better than
those professionally trained for a couple of months.
"Recognising the problem, the VNAT has proposed to lower the requirement to a
two-year college degree," Binh said. "But the change won’t come overnight."
A travel agency representative who asked to have her name withheld said she was
also unhappy with another provision in the current law which required even
university graduates to be certified in a foreign language before being
permitted to work as tour guides.
"I myself studied for five years at the University of Tourism. We spent the last
two years studying a foreign language, which should be better than a
certificate," she said.
"I think the clients are the best judges of a tour guides’ work."
Over 2.9 million international visitors have arrived so far this year, up from
2.17 million in the same period last year, according to the VNAT. The country
has targeted 4.2 million foreign visitors in 2010.