The monolithic structures might merely look like a thing of beauty if you go around Mamallapuram without much knowledge of its history. But a well-informed tour guide can tell you what went into the creation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In an attempt to teach history and etiquette to those interested in making a career in tourism and to create quality jobs for people from villages, the Department of Tourism proposes to conduct a tour-guide training programme shortly. The programme will familiarise the participants with details of places of tourist interest across the State, Tourism Commissioner A.C.Mohan Das said. “We conducted a similar programme two years ago. It was a major hit, with nearly 300 people learning the art of storytelling to impress tourists,” he said.

The applications for this year's programme will be scrutinised based on the candidates' qualification and aptitude in understanding history. “The popularity of the training programme is high among people of various age groups. We had retired government employees taking up the programme last time,” he added.

Referring to the training imparted to 20 guides, who have been recruited on a contract basis for the Hop-on Hop-off tour, he said such training would improve not only the knowledge but also the confidence level of the participants. At the end of the two-month training programme, the participants will be given licences as tour guides. “A government-issued license can offer a lot of job opportunities for the unemployed,” Mr. Das said.

Tour guides with a good knowledge of foreign languages, especially Spanish, French and German are more in demand in the State. “The freelance guides are in good demand when we organise package tours. The training programme would also help freelance guides. There are experienced guides who are earning as much as Rs.45,000 a month.”

The residential programme will also feature classes on etiquette, communication skills, Indian culture and history. The Tourist Guides Federation of South India secretary Sudhakar S. Selwyn observed that only 10 per cent of the participants of such training programmes opt to become full time tour guides as there is intense competition in the field. “The main attraction of the programme is the issue of license. Many rural youngsters who have aspirations of becoming tourist guides undergo such trainings but fail to make an impact in the tourism industry.”

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