There is a shortage of multilinguistic guides in the country, in spite of certain growing inbound markets
The dearth of third language-speaking tour guides has been an overlooked issue over the years.
Consider this. The Philippines has only one qualified Korean-speaking guide even as South Korea has been the top source market – comprising nearly 25 per cent of tourist arrivals – for many years, prompting the hiring of some 200 Koreans to serve as tour guides in Cebu.
There’s also an insufficient number of Mandarin-speaking guides, an irony in a country with a large population of Chinese. As such, hotels and resorts catering to Chinese tourists have taken to hiring university students in Chinese-speaking countries for a short stint.
“It’s been a perennial problem, and the Department of Tourism (DoT) needs to tackle this problem seriously,” said Angel Ramos Bognot, president and managing director of Afro Asian Travel and Tours.
The DoT, which licenses tour guides, has an existing programme and training template, but a third language programme has not been implemented, said Bognot. He further suggested implementing a scholarship programme for third languages.
To cope with the shortage, tourism undersecretary Alma Jimenez announced that they would be tapping into overseas Filipino workers – who already speak foreign languages like Chinese and Japanese – to become tour guides.
For Madrid Fusion Manila, which requires interpreters fluent in Spanish and “nannies” to guide Spanish participants around the country, gets volunteers from wealthy families who are well-acquainted with Spain and its language.
Marisa Nallana, secretary-general of the Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (PACEOS) which helps in organising the annual gastronomy event, said their Spanish counterpart does the screening and interviews. Interpreters have to be well-versed in food and cuisines because are required to translate into English, what the Spanish chef is explaining, on the go.