PM toughens on tour guides

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, seen here during last week's inspection of the royal crematorium at Sanam Luang, took a hard line against foreign tour guides, because it is an occupation reserved for Thais. (Post Today photo)

The government has vowed to continue cracking down on illegal tour guides and foreigners illegally operating tour guide services, saying the job is reserved for Thai nationals only.

In response to a new call by the Professional Tourist Guide Association of Thailand for the government to better tackle the problem of illegal tour guides, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he received the association's petition and has assigned the Tourism and Sports Ministry to handle it.

"The government doesn't have a policy allowing foreigners to come and work as tour guides in Thailand because the role of professional tour guide is one reserved for Thai nationals only under the 1999 law on the business operations of foreigners," Gen Prayut said Sunday.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has invited representatives of tour guide companies and professional tour guides to a meeting to discuss solutions to the problem, he said.

The prime minister admitted, however, that despite the presence of these illegal operators, the country is still grappling with a shortage of tour guides amid a growing tourism industry.

As of Jun 30, only 70,655 tour guides have registered with the Department of Tourism, he said.

Of this number, 46,880 are registered as general tour guides while 19,154 others are registered as tour guides who are permitted to work in specific areas only, he said.

The prime minister did not give information on the nature of the other tour guides.

The vast majority of registered tour guides speak English with many also being able to speak Chinese and Japanese, said Gen Prayut, adding the existing number of tour guides is far from enough to serve the several million tourists who come to Thailand each year.

Gen Prayut said he has told the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Education Ministry to devise a programme to train tour guides who speak several languages in an attempt to catch up with growing demand for such services.

Current registered tour guides are also being encouraged to learn a third language to serve a wider range of customers, the prime minister said.

Along with continuing its cracking down on illegal tour companies, the government has been cooperating with the Chinese tourism promotion organisation in Thailand to curb zero-dollar tours from China.