The Straits Times
Published on Nov 08, 2012

Stop illegal tour guides from leaving the country


ACCORDING to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Singapore welcomed 13.2 million overseas visitors last year, a 13 per cent rise over 2010 figures.

With continued strong tourist arrivals, this should be good news for licensed tourist guides conducting inbound tours.

However, the demand for guiding services has been adversely affected by unlicensed foreign guides, resulting in a loss of job and income opportunities for local guides such as myself.

Illegal tour guides are here because of the archaic rules and limitations surrounding STB's increased efforts against them.

For example, it is hard to penalise illegal foreign guides as they often leave the country before investigations are completed. Current penalties for illegal guiding were set in 1985 and have not been updated to maintain a strong deterrent effect.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and the STB should consider incorporating the following suggestions into the regulations:

First, bar foreign offenders from leaving the country by giving enforcement officers the authority to compound their passports until investigations are completed. Alternatively, the board could work with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to prevent offenders from leaving the country. Repeat offenders could be barred from entering Singapore in future.

Second, issue heavy fines on local transport providers and travel agents who work with illegal guides. This will make it harder for illegal guides to operate in Singapore.

In some countries, such as Malaysia, the law requires every guided tour group entering the country to engage a local licensed tourist guide. The same could be enacted by way of legislation in Singapore.

These suggestions would go some distance in adding more teeth to enforcement efforts, in a bid to eliminate illegal guiding, as well as provide more job opportunities for licensed tourist guides.

Edwin Lim