Tour guides must make mark online

In its bid to help licensed tour guides remain relevant, the government task force appears to have neglected the advent of the Internet and how it has disrupted the tourism sector ("Initiatives to help tour guides remain relevant"; last Friday).

It goes beyond the use of technology to market the services of the tour guides, and should include analyses of how digitisation has empowered tourists to bypass traditional services, regardless of the soft skills, awards or marketable experience the tour guide might have.

Well-informed visitors would have gathered information through online resources or guidebooks beforehand - often free of charge.

The tour guides speak of their experience and ability "to be relevant to the tourists", but ignore the fact that such details can be crowdsourced by individuals on the Internet based on their own preferences.

Tech start-ups have also designed products which sync itineraries or customise travel plans based on a few parameters, or link travellers with locals who can offer these services too.

Perhaps beyond the enhancement of soft skills or agency-endorsed awards, user-generated reviews and ratings may be more convincing.

And with greater competition, these aggregated assessments create incentives for tour guides to design their offerings more deliberately.

Support from the government task force may be a convenient crutch in the short run. But in the future, tour guides must carve their own niches in a digital context.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Tour guides must make mark online'. Print Edition | Subscribe