Being a tourist guide should be an honour. Yes, an honour as by definition tourist guides are ambassadors of Croatian tourism
Tourist guides tell stories of destinations, increase daily spending of tourists, generate quality extra content of a destination as well as sell with advice activities and experiences of a destination. Also, tourist guides are the good spirits of a destination and friends of tourists who know and tell local stories not found in tourism brochures.
So important for our tourism, and so underrated, especially in the context of developing and promoting tourism destinations. They are storytellers, selling emotions and experiences and certainly a key factor in the final decision of guests: return to a destination or not?
If you feel I am exaggerating, do not forget the reason guests arrive is not the hotel, but an experience and substance of a destination. Unfortunately, their contribution is not acknowledged as much as it should be and their sector is also riddled with chaos. From licencing to education to performance. And performance is key! So important it must not be left to chance.
If we care about the story we tell tourists, then each guide should pass specialized licences for each protected locality. There is no way one can learn of a destination online or in a tourism brochure and then tell that plastic and generalised story to tourists. This is not storytelling, there are no emotions or substance here, just pure form. And if Croatia is unique in anything, then it is the diversity in way of life and thousands of indigenous and credible stories which are the most valuable treasure. Stories are the most valuable tourism capital. All other destinations in the world invent various stories, while we who have so many of them do not tell them. We just have to be who we are – Croats, tell our stories, not be bad copies of others.
Originals have value, not copies. Which is why it’s crazy and counterproductive for tourism guides who have not passed quality and broad education, whether domestic or foreign, to lead tourists in protected localities and tell wrong or untrue stores. Naturally, the education system is a large topic to be dealt with, just like the control of quality performance. When talking of EU directives, currently on debate, we should allow everyone, domestic and foreign tourism guides to pass exams and have the option of guiding in protected localities, one of the main values of the European Union. But education must be controlled, not hand out licences as candy (speaking form my personal experience at the Faculty of Economics in Osijek, and as others tell me, the situation is more or less the same everywhere, with some exceptions) and if we care about the story we are telling, then we must also control performance.
It’s all up to the people and the way the system is set up. There is no system in this case. And if you don’t have a strategy then there is chaos.
As things go unfortunately, in the tourist guides domain there are many issues in the field, beginning form the fact we do not deal with tourism development strategically. Arguments that our guides are expensive and poor is certainly to be discussed, people are different and so are guides. Where is the tourism inspection, how much do tourism agencies play and use local guides, do they choose price or performance quality, what is the minimal guide price etc. There are many questions and topics for constructive discussion, but all these problems are a result of systematic disregard and again without a clear strategy for development and synergy of all participants there is no success.
The market should definitely be open to everyone, which will self-regulate and single out the poor, good and excellent. But firstly and primarily we must care about how our stories are told, we must protect our identity, heritage and history. As if we don’t respect ourselves, others won’t either. It’s up to us how and if we will regulate the market and begin to systematically, long-term and strategically deal with tourism.
Tourism is too complex to be left to inertia and chance. Strategic development of tourism destinations and tourism in general must be an imperative, and tourist guides must play a key role. The tourism mosaic is composed of a thousand pieces, each of them very important, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem.
The more professionalism and constructive discussion, the better, as this is the only way we can grow and develop, as individuals and society.
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