As Bodrum readies for the new tourism season, the sector faces a problem with the number of qualified guides, travel agencies warned recently.
Industry representatives discussed the problems that plague travel agencies and tour guides at a pre-tourism season gathering in Bodrum, the popular holiday district in the western city of Muğla, organized by the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies, or TÜRSAB.
Aydın Bakışoğlu, president of the Discipline Board of Bodrum Tourist Guides Society, or BORED, said there is a problem with an excessive number of guides during the summer.
"The number of professional tour guides in Bodrum is normally not more than 30, but during the summer months it exceeds 300," Bakışoğlu said, adding that it is not easy for his association to deal with that.
"We cannot cope with those unlicensed ones who call themselves guides, but point to the Mediterranean and call it the Black Sea.," Bakışoğlu said. "Licensed tour guides should be trained at least three times a year."
However, a step forward will be taken in the surveillance of tour guides.
With the cooperation of TÜRSAB and BORED, the sector representatives agreed to form a commission to inspect tour guides, effective after May 1. The gathering was attended by TÜRSAB Bodrum’s acting board president, Sevinç Gökbel; BORED President Neşe Gökbel; and travel-agency executives and professional tourist guides active in Muğla.
In the summer, Gökbel said, everyone offers guide service to tourists in one way or another.
"The bath attendant, the hairdresser, the boatman and the bus driver: They all offer guide services to their customers," Gökbel said. "We have heard of public-toilet attendants working as tour guides."
Untrained and unlicensed guides are wrongly promoting Turkey, Gökbel said, citing complaints TÜRSAB receives and surveys it conducts.
"There are tourists who spend two weeks in Bodrum and do not find out about the antique theater, the underwater archeology museum or King Mouslos’ grave before going back," Gökbel added.
In order to help protect Turkey’s image in the eye of tourists, guides’ education is crucial, she said.
"Cooperation between the sectors, ministry inspection and heavy penalties are all musts to prevent this type of guide from hurting our country."
Bakışoğlu said members of BORED are trained at least three times a year and lamented the increase in unlicensed guides during the tourist season.
"Everybody says they are tour guides, and because there is no inspection," added Bakışoğlu, "the true, licensed tour guides are having a hard time."
He said that tour guides who work with travel agencies are making extra money by taking commissions from the stores they bring tourists to, a practice called "hanutçuluk" in the western and southern areas of Turkey. "The tour guides do not develop themselves in terms of knowledge, manner and experience," Bakışoğlu said, adding that this is the reason BORED constantly trains its members, even if they are already experts in their field. "We believe in hard work to keep the quality of the personnel in tourism."