KOTA KINABALU (February 19): Sabah’s tourism industry has come a long way in providing visitors with a safe, entertaining and high-quality travel experience through tour guiding.
Even in the face of adversity, local tour guides maintain their resilience and optimism by contributing innovative ideas to boost and revitalize the state’s tourism business.
To stay relevant in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) has worked with the Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA) to reimagine tours and travel experiences aimed at both local markets and an audience. wider via the Internet.
This effort also includes providing local tour guides with STB-sponsored Online Guided Tour (OGT) courses, which began in October last year, which will enable them to become proficient in conducting virtual tours.
Although travel information is readily available online, STB Managing Director Noredah Othman believes that tour guiding is still needed to give travelers a better understanding of places, people and culture.
“The tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. However, even in the absence of tourists, we must continue to anticipate and innovate to maintain tourist activity, which is impossible without the help of our professional tourist guides.
“As there are still restrictions on travel, OGT is the best way to show the world what Sabah has to offer.
Therefore, local guides are and have always been the perfect advocates for our tourism, as they are outstanding storytellers capable of attracting tourists to visit Sabah,” she said.
Noredah added the collaboration in the ongoing virtual tour demonstrated the importance of their role in promoting Sabah by conveying stories on many topics like history, WWII, traditional plants, wildlife and even ancient stone monuments, among others.
“As we celebrate International Tour Guide Day 2022, Sabah Tourism expresses its gratitude to local tour guides for their endless dedication and contribution to promoting tourism. At STB, we are always ready to support our guides and the STGA .
These endorsements include STGA’s support in the recent bid to host the 2024 World Federation of Tour Guide Associations convention.
Although lost to Italy with just four votes, the STGA nevertheless managed to put Sabah on the world tourism map.
Sabah has about 1,200 licensed tour guides, of which 650 are members of STGA.
STGA President Grace Leong said tour guides play an instrumental role in promoting tourism, pointing out that their commentary or narration of destinations is essential in providing information to tourists during a guiding mission.
“In Sabah, our tourism is mainly based on ecotourism. Without a tour guide, tourists will not understand or have minimal knowledge of the destinations visited, including plants, wildlife and culture.
“Tour guides are indeed indispensable in the Sabah tourism package. In collaboration with the STB, the association carried out virtual walking tours and ongoing OGTs on Facebook.
“This will help promote Sabah as a destination of choice globally. OGTs have attracted thousands of viewers since the program debuted on January 21 this year.
In addition, she added that STGA is helping to connect tour guides to various online platforms to enable them to earn income through OGTs and supplement it with in-person guiding when tourism doors reopen.
“Yes, we are resilient. While many of our tour guides are now working full-time or part-time at other jobs, we are still waiting for our international border to reopen once the pandemic has passed,” Grace said.
Alongside International Tour Guide Day on Monday, February 21, STB and STGA are also collaborating with Universiti Malaysia Sabah on an online webinar focusing on “Tourism Recovery and Growth: The Role of Tour Guides.”