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Thai Tour Guide Quality to Fall as Government Reduces Qualifications Needed?

Tour guides in Thailand must currently have at least an undergraduate degree and pass various exams - copyright The Lawleys, Creative Commons License
Tour guides in Thailand must currently have at least an undergraduate degree and pass various exams – copyright The Lawleys, Creative Commons License


You have to love the so-called ‘logic’ of the Thai government sometimes. When there’s a supposed shortage of Thai tour guides, for instance, don’t help more qualified people train to be tour guides. No, not in Thailand. Instead, lower the qualifications so more Thais can become tour guides. Classic.

According to a Bangkok Post story, the Thai government is looking at just this type of scenario — approving a change for the minimum qualifications to become a Thai tour guide. Instead of the undergraduate university degree that’s now required as a minimum, they’re now considering lowering the qualifications to nothing more than having passed Grade 9.

For anyone who doesn’t understand the Thai education system, that’s not even a high school education — it’s someone who left school at 15 years old.

Now, I mention this as several of my Thai friends are tour guides. All of them have Bachelors degrees, a couple have Masters degrees and they’ve worked for years to get to where they are. They know Thai history in depth, can tell you anything you would ever want to know about Thai culture and Thai geography, and most are experts on Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as well.

Not one that I spoke to today thinks this latest government plan for the Thai tourism industry is a good thing.

My closest Thai friend is a tour guide in Thailand who has worked for the same American tour company for around 18 years. He has been named twice as the company’s top tour guide, not just in Thailand, but in every country this company operates. He speaks three languages, knows the history of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam inside out and is a font of knowledge about anything you would ever want to know about his country.

He is the type of tour guide Thailand should be trying to find or train, not someone who left high school at 15 years of age, and doesn’t even have the bare minimum of skills necessary. It’s cheating the tourists who pay for a tour guide and end up with someone not remotely qualified.

Of course, in Thailand, the easiest route is often the one that’s taken by the government whenever there is a problem. Meaning, only a few years later, when the ‘easy route’ has proved to be the disaster we all knew it would be, then the government is scrambling to figure out what to do next — rather than do what they should have done in the first place.

In this case, providing incentives for Thai students to train as tour guides would be a good first step. Offering them first-class training, once they complete their undergraduate degree, would be the next.

Unfortunately, such will be the latest fix-things-quick scheme from the Thai government and, no, it won’t work. They may get more Thai tour guides working for agencies, but they will also have tourists paying for the services of people who are not qualified to do the jobs they are doing.

When tourists start to complain or, god forbid, catastrophes happen, it will reflect poorly on the Thai tourism industry and on Thais in general.

I and my Thai tour guide friends can see it. Why can’t Thailand’s government? Or are they really that clueless?

Meanwhile, if you’re planning on coming to Thailand and this is the type of Thai tour guide it looks like you might get stuck with, you might want to consider finding a non-Thai who lives in Thailand to be your tour guide for the day instead.