Guideline on tour guide fees unwelcomed by S’pore agencies

SINGAPORE’S National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) recommendation on minimum fees for tour guides, announced last month, is too simplistic and not practical, several inbound travel consultants told TTG Asia e-Daily.

NTUC Tour Guide Chapter’s new guideline recommends a minimum fee of S$150 (US$120) for a four-hour, half-day tour, and S$250 for a full-day one. There are no penalties for not following the recommendations.

Tour East group vice president of sales and marketing, Judy Lum, said: “The steep increase as recommended by NTUC is not realistic for our business.

“I acknowledge that the increase in guide fees is a reasonable consideration just as an employer would increase the salary of the staff to help offset inflation, but it has to be within reasonable range and viable for a tour agency to continue operating these tours.”

An inbound operator who declined to be named said: “There are many types of tours and they all vary quite widely in terms of the time, effort, language and service required of the tour guides. Hence, a one-size-fits-all guideline may not be that practical.

“Each company will have to decide for itself how best to compensate its own tour guides according to market needs.”

National Association of Travel Agents Singapore acting CEO, Patricia Auyeong, concurred, adding: “Such guidelines can be disruptive…it can also be anti-competitive so it is best left to market forces to determine the fees.”

GTMC Travel CEO, Samson Tan, said: “Guidelines are good for the industry and if business goes down, it is up to the industry to negotiate among themselves.

“It must be a win-win situation where both the agencies and tour guides benefit for a long-term perspective.”

Likewise, Lum said: “Discussion on such matters should have the objective of a solution where both sides benefit; it is very simplistic to assume that tour agencies laugh to the bank by not paying the guides what they deserve.”

According to local broadsheet The Straits Times, as of December 2013, there were 2,360 licensed tour guides in Singapore employed by travel consultants. They charge from S$10 an hour, or up to S$180 per hour if they offer specialised knowledge or speak multiple languages.

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