To make Asian tourists feel more at home in the Philippines, tourist guides in Palawan are being taught to converse with them beyond “annyeonghaseyo,” “konnichiwa,” and “nín hao.”
The move, according to a group of tour guides in Puerto Princesa City, the provincial capital, is seen to break the language barrier and draw more non-English speaking Korean, Japanese and Chinese tourists.
According to Puerto Princesa Tour Guide Association (PPTGA) president Christie Jimeno, teaching tour guides conversational Korean, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese would make them more globally competent.
“Filipinos are already known to be proficient in English, which can be considered to be the most important medium of communication,” Jimeno said.
“With the influx of tourists from non-English speaking countries, we have also learned the value of being able to communicate in their mother tongue.”
Jimeno said speaking with the tourists in their language “will make them feel at home, [boost their] confidence in traveling in the country and increase their sense of security as well.”
She said the PPTGA had undertaken a series of language proficiency trainings through a grant from the Department of Tourism (DOT). The grant, funded by Canada, aims to increase jobs in the tourism
In the first quarter of 2015, Korea was the top visitor spender, providing the Philippines with revenues of P4.13 billion, based on DOT data. This was part of the total P77.14 billion earned by the tourism industry in the first four months of this year.
Some 452,000 Koreans, the most number of tourists, have arrived since January. Japanese arrivals numbered at nearly 168,000 in the same period while the Philippines had over 126,000 Chinese visitors from January to April.
Other Asian arrivals included Singapore nationals at 60,000, Taiwanese tourists at over 55,500 and Malaysians at over 50,000.
The PPTGA, which has more than 100 members, underwent classroom training in the Korean, Japanese and Chinese-Mandarin languages and seminars on tour terminology, script writing and field familiarization. It has extended the training to tour guides who are not members of the organization.
“We plan to increase the number of foreign language-speaking tour guides by cascading what we learned to those unable to take part in the program,” Jimeno said.
The training is aimed at increasing both the income of tour guides by at least 50 percent and boosting the tourism industry by 20 percent through increased bookings.
According to Jimeno, teaching tour guides foreign languages will lead to growth in Palawan’s tourism industry while creating more jobs for local tour guides.
“One of our main goals is to be able to compete with foreign tour guides, giving us more opportunities for tour bookings,” Jimeno said.