Special Correspondent

Guides are “true ambassadors” for discerning tourists: official

CHENNAI: M. Rajaram, Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director of the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, has urged stakeholders in tourism, the hospitality industry and tourist guides to work together to make Tamil Nadu the top State in domestic and foreign tourist arrivals.

Inaugurating the two-day annual conference of the Tourist Guides’ Federation of South India here on Saturday, he said the tourism industry could achieve results, if only there were collective efforts, and the support of every related industry to create the right impression about tourist spots. The Tourism Department and the TTDC had taken several initiatives, especially in heritage tourism, medical tourism, and rural tourism, under “Virundhinar Potrudhum,” a promotional campaign.

Pointing out that tourist guides were the “true ambassadors” for discerning tourists, Dr. Rajaram said the TTDC, together with the Anna Institute of Management, had embarked on a training programme to produce a new breed of guides. More than 150 persons had so far been trained, and the programme would continue. Retired government officials, teachers, and other service industry professionals had expressed interest in working as local guides, and the Tourism Department was planning a training programme for them.

Iris V. Barry, tourism training consultant and guide in Scotland, stressed the importance of instilling profession values in tourist guides. Updating their knowledge through quality training would help the guides set high standards. This, he said, would help to woo more foreign visitors to India, especially to the southern parts.

T. Arulraj, Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai Circle, appealed to the federation to organise seminars and workshops regularly to help the guides keep themselves abreast of the latest developments in the tourist attractions and their historical importance. The ASI, he said, was willing to join hands with the federation, to educate the guides.

D. Balaji, president of the federation, which is a member of the World Federation of Tourist Guides’ Association, appealed to the Union Tourism Ministry and the regional tourism bodies to set up a separate welfare fund for the guides. He also urged the Tourism Department to get a meeting place equipped with library facilities for them.

Sudhakar S. Selwyn, honorary secretary of the federation, said a post-conference study tour was planned from June 9 to 12. Permission has been obtained from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the guides to visit the Chola paintings on the ‘Vimana’ of the Brahadeeswara temple at Thanjavur and the upper floors of the Gangaikondacholapuram temple.