Wanted: Tour guides with niche expertise

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat (centre) at a community garden as part of a tour of Ang Mo Kio yesterday.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat (centre) at a community garden as part of a tour of Ang Mo Kio yesterday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

STB seeks experts in local food and nature to meet rising demand for interest-based tours

Experts in the areas of Singapore's food and nature are being encouraged to share their passion with visitors to the Republic under a new scheme to help meet growing demand for interest-based tours.

Those with rich knowledge in specific areas can apply to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to attain an Area Tourist Guide licence, which allows them to be practising tour guides in their areas of interest without having to obtain the full tourist guide certification.

The scheme was soft-launched last October, starting with the food and nature categories. There are already 32 successful candidates, including food blogger Maureen Ow, better known as Miss Tam Chiak.

Applicants must have their experience and skills assessed and, if necessary, complete training. Once licensed, they can design and market tours in their area of expertise, or conduct related tours for operators.

Announcing its official launch yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said the scheme aims to help showcase Singapore's heritage, culture and way of life, in line with travellers' growing interest in authentic local experiences.

Speaking to the media after a neighbourhood tour in Ang Mo Kio, he said: "In the past I think we may not have focused enough on this area, but now it's something we're trying to grow."

Tours that go into the heartland can also benefit neighbourhood businesses, Mr Chee added.

 

Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, president of the Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore, said growing tourism in the heartland must be done with residents in mind. "They don't want noisy tour buses and big groups of tourists coming here and pushing up prices. But it is still early days, and a lot of tourists nowadays do 'free and easy', so I don't think those will be issues," he said.

Mr Pandian Parthasarathy, a certified tourist guide of five years, took the extra step of obtaining the Area Tourist Guide licence for nature last November to help set himself apart.

The scheme aims to help showcase Singapore's heritage, culture and way of life, in line with travellers' growing interest in authentic local experiences.

The nature enthusiast conducts tours on a freelance basis in parks, nearby islands and even the zoo.

Customers, who come to him through word of mouth, are mainly nature lovers, said Mr Pandian, 57.

But with business slow at one to two tours a month, he is hoping that being listed as a specialist in STB's online tourist guide directory will help in marketing his skills.

"I can identify plants and animals and tell stories - once I start, I can't stop talking. But having that knowledge means that I can talk with some authority," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'Wanted: Tour guides with niche expertise'. Print Edition | Subscribe