TOUR GUIDES. More than 50 tour guides from different parts of the country attended a national gathering of tour guides here in Tacloban City on June 9 to 12.

TACLOBAN CITY – For the first time, Eastern Visayas hosted a national event for tour guides from across the country through the 11th National Tour Guides Convention and General Assembly and the 2nd Philippine National Tour Guides Conference.

The event, held from June 9 to 12 here in the city, was organized by the Philippine Federation of Professional Tour Guide Associations, Inc., in collaboration with the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations, and supported by the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Promotions Board.

Jann Rañeses, a regional tour guide from the National Capital Region (NCR), shared that her participation in the national convention opened her eyes to various problems in the tourism industry, specifically concerning biodiversity.

Rañeses added that she was glad to be part of the conference as it allowed them to discuss relevant issues affecting not only tour guides but also tour operators, transportation, and local tourist spots.

One of the issues discussed was the problem of whale shark feeding in Oslob, Cebu, which environmentalists and conservation groups strongly oppose.

“Our topic opened my consciousness to various environmental and biodiversity problems that may affect our tourism sector, like the whale shark feeding in Oslob,” Rañeses said.
Whale shark feeding is considered unsustainable tourism and poses a danger to the animals when they come into close proximity to boats, increasing the risk of contact or being hit by propellers. This also affects their migratory patterns, reducing the chances of reproduction.

As a regional tour guide in the NCR, Rañeses mentioned that among the problems they face are garbage disposal, flooding, and traffic congestion.

“Regarding traffic problems, we have devised a solution by creating a timetable that aligns with traffic patterns, considering not only the distance in kilometers but also the time it takes,” Rañeses added.

Meanwhile, Suzette Garcia, a regional tour guide in NCR and a former community guide in Biliran province, emphasized that age is not a barrier if an individual is passionate about helping the tourism sector.

Garcia added that her age, 61, does not hinder her from performing her duties as a tour guide and sharing her knowledge with tourists visiting various destinations and historical sites in the NCR.

“Actually, they know a lot and can impart a lot, especially regarding tourism, because they have a lot to tell based on real experiences and not just what is found or read in books and on the internet,” she explained, highlighting that this makes their storytelling more authentic.

The only challenge she faced when transferring to the NCR was the need to read books and other historical sources to enhance her job, especially for tours set in Intramuros.

Garcia emphasized that tour guides must be well-equipped with knowledge of the community and destinations they offer in their tour packages to help guests relate to and learn from their visits.

At least 198 tour guides who are members of 18 associations from across the country gathered in Tacloban for the four-day national convention and general assembly with the theme, “Philippine Tour Guide: Keeper of Culture, Heritage, and Biodiversity.”

Tourism Promotions Board Chief Operating Officer Maria Margarita Nograles, in her message, encouraged officers of the Philippine Federation of Professional Tour Guides to help the government achieve President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s goal of making the country a top tourist destination in Asia.

“You, our esteemed tour guides, are among the most essential tourism stakeholders. You are not just holding the key to your destination; you are the storyteller, the cultural ambassador who breathes life into each landmark, story, and tradition,” Nograles said in her message.

“By sharing your unique insights and passion with tourists, you leave an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those you encounter, shaping memories that last a lifetime,” she added.

Tour guides leave a lasting impression that encourages tourists to return to the country, helping the government achieve its goal of making the Philippines a tourism powerhouse in Asia and boosting economic growth.