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Updated: March 15, 2011 19:12 IST

Tour de force

Divya Kumar
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Rosalind Newlands. Photo: R. Ragu
Rosalind Newlands. Photo: R. Ragu

Meet Rosalind Newlands president World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations

Rosalind Newlands has been a tourist guide since 1983, and she has no plans of stopping anytime soon.

“You get to travel around the country you love, and tell people about it,” she says. “And best of all, you're almost always dealing with people when they're happy — either on holiday or on a break from business. There aren't many jobs that give you that.”

No wonder then that the tourist guide from Scotland has been voted — unanimously for the third time running — the president of the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations (WFTGA), a pioneering international organisation that works in 65 countries and reaches over to 1,50,000 guides worldwide.

Newlands was in Chennai recently, touching base with some of the federation's guides in the city. She was technically on holiday with her husband Phil — their cruise ship had docked at Chennai for a couple of days — but then almost all her holidays end up involving work in some way.

“Whenever I'm on holiday, I try and meet the members of that city or country,” says Newlands, who was recently awarded the OBE for her services to the tourism industry. And she always, always goes on tours. “I believe that a guided tour gives a very good summary about what's beautiful in a place, and this way, if I want to come again later, I know where to go back to,” she says.

The WFTGA, which is officially linked with the UNESCO, promotes licensed, qualified guides across the world, and provides them training on the basics of being a good guide, things that might seem obvious, but are often forgotten, says Newlands: “They're simple skills such as how to conduct a group — making sure you're heard all the time or even just making sure you stop in the shade — and how to handle difficult customers or answer sensitive questions carefully.”

All their guides qualify for a specific area (town, state, region or country) — “nobody can be qualified for the whole world!” — and must at very least be high-school graduates, though most are college graduates.

“Guides are often the only local persons a visitor speaks to, so they're the real ambassadors of the country,” says Newlands. “It's not just knowledge that a guide can give — visitors can get that from books too. A good guide also helps with interpreting the culture, telling the visitor what's important to people who live here.”

Newlands stumbled upon her career as a guide while working at a language school in the early 1980s. “We'd bring Italian children to Scotland and I'd take them around,” she says. “It was very noisy but a lot of fun, and I decided to do a training programme on being a tourist guide full time.”

Initially, she did just local tours (she had a young family and couldn't travel much), but as her children got older, she travelled further and further. Today, as president, she's constantly travelling the world (in the last year she's covered Estonia, France, Madeira, Macau and of course, India) — “She'll go anywhere she's invited,” says husband Phil drolly.

It's a full time job, but Newlands still finds time to be a guide in her homeland of Scotland. “Guiding is fun, so I still try and do it a few months in the summer,” she says.

“People think it's the same every time because it's the same tour, but it isn't — the people are always different, and so are the questions!”

WELL GUIDED There are 4,000 licensed guides who're members of the WFTGA in India, with 238 guides in South India. There are also 1,500 guides in Tamil Nadu trained by the TTDC for specific rural localities and aimed at the domestic tourism market, who are associate members of the WFTGA

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