There's acute shortage of qualified guides in tourist destinations across Karnataka

On an average, Tipu Sultan's summer palace on Albert Victor Road in Chamarajpet here gets more than 300 visitors daily. The elegant wooden structure impresses but what would make the experience more meaningful is someone to tell them more about it. Here most visitors are left groping in the dark as there is no one to give them nuggets of information about the 18th century monument, now protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Like for example, how did Tipu and his entourage spent their time there? Which room was used for what purpose?

No future

The shortage of guides felt at Tipu's palace in Bangalore is symptomatic of the situation across Karnataka, which is trying to woo tourists — both foreign and domestic. The tourism industry is facing acute shortage of guides as many trained guides have shifted to better paying jobs.

“The peak period is from December to February, when a lot of foreign tourists come to India, and there is a clear shortage of guides during these months,” K.R. Phaneesh, a government-certified guide in Bangalore, told The Hindu. To overcome the shortage, he said, travel agencies hire private uncertified guides.

While there are just about 35 guides approved by the Union Department of Tourism working in various tourist destinations across the State, the number of uncertified guides runs into several hundreds.

They include locals, who double as guides in some destinations. Karnataka reported 8.4 crore tourists in 2011 across 141 destinations, of which 5.7 lakh were foreign tourists. Acknowledging the shortage, a senior Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) official said: “There is a shortage of qualified, knowledgeable guides. This is a real problem for us.”

KSTDC itself currently has only 13 guides on its panel of which four are employed on contract. “

Poor remuneration and limited scope for earning force guides to seek alternative professions and are a deterrent to new entrants.

Poor takings

Shakeel Ahmed, an uncertified private guide who works for a travel agency, said he earns about Rs. 6,000 a month. “Even though I charge a meagre Rs. 30 per tourist, there is hardly anyone coming forward to seek the service. In [peak] season, I get about four or five tourists a day. But on many days, I don't get any.”

The situation is only marginally better for the certified guides. Ramesh Kumar, a guide certified from the Union Tourism Ministry, said: “Certified guides earn about Rs. 10,000 a month while private guides earn about Rs. 6,000 a month. In fact, of the 15 or 16 government-certified guides in the city, only eight or nice are practising. There is no fixed salary for any guides and the honorarium of Rs. 1,000 announced by the State government has also not been given.”

Some repackaging

Mr. Kumar, who laments that tourists don't value guides, has packaged himself as a ‘tour director', which, he feels, helps him earn better.

Not only is the poor remuneration affecting the uncertified guides, but entry into certain historic monuments is also restricted for them. “We allow only government-approved guides, as private ones tend to present to tourists their own interpretation of whatever little history they know,” said Chandrakanth K., Senior Conservation Assistant at ASI.

The consequences

Back at Tipu's palace in Bangalore, tourists such as Rajini Priya from Andhra Pradesh are facing the consequences of the acute shortage of qualified guides. “The guides come and talk a little about the monument and then they leave us to find our own way around the place,” said Ms. Priya, who is holidaying here with her family.