CHIANG RAI – All local tour guides in Chiang Rai and Throughout Thailand will now be required to wear uniforms starting in October, as part of a government campaign to upgrade the profession.
The new regulation under the Tour and Guide Business Act would ensure that authorities could easily check if guides leading clients at tourist destinations were legal or not, said Wanasiri Morakul, acting director-general of the Department of Tourism.
The move was a response to numerous complaints about illegal tour guides, she said.
The uniform is in fact only a shirt, available with both short and long sleeves and both western and Thai styles. The western-style shirt bears the word “Thai” repeated in both Thai and English on white fabric. The Thai style is in plain shades of pale blue.
The designs were developed by the department and Silpakorn University, the country’s main fine-arts school. The university will identify producers in various regions to supply the fabric that guides’ associations could acquire to turn them into uniform shirts, Miss Wanasiri said.
There are about 50,000 tour guides in the country and they will wear the shirts and their tour guide badges from Oct 1 onward.
Guides will be given a grace period until Dec 31 to acquire the shirts. After Jan 1, any guides who fail to wear the uniforms while on duty will be fined 10,000 baht, Miss Wanasiri said.
She also insisted that legal tour guides in the country had to be Thai as the profession was reserved under law for local people.
She admitted that the number of tour guides was insufficient for visitors of some nationalities whose numbers have soared. Tourists from Russia and South Korea are among those who have difficulty finding guides who can speak their language.
Miss Wanasiri confirmed, however, that no foreigners would receive tour guide licences in Thailand and they would be recognised only as tour coordinators. Any tour operators who used foreign guides were considered to be violating the law, she added.
The statement appeared intended to ease the fears of some guides that the Tourism and Sports Ministry was planning to register illegal foreign guides.
About 30 registered local guides staged a protest against the plan on Friday in Chiang Rai.
Miss Wanasiri said that any foreign tour coordinators had to be properly trained and registered. They would only facilitate communication between tourists and tour companies and translate narrations from Thai guides for visitors.
The combination of foreign tour coordinators and Thai guides who learn other languages would solve the problem of the guide shortage, she added.