WITH the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration in 2015, tour guides all over the Philippines are preparing to refine their standards so they can compete with other countries.

Tour guides gathered in a three-day event that ended here Monday for the National Tour Guides convention and general assembly bringing with them information on tourism in their places.

Cebu Association of Tour Guides member Raymond Fernandez said the importance of the annual convention can help them polish their standards in terms of taking tourists to places.

“This event is significant to us because there will be a great uniformity of information among other tour guides and operators in the country,” Fernandez said.

Nilo Lazarito, the president of the Accredited Tour Guides for Northern Mindanao, said “the convention’s preparation is an avenue for tour guides in the Philippines to gather information on the new destinations in the country, the problems encountered in tour guiding, and some tips in between.”

“In Northern Mindanao alone, we only get to have three to four boosts of tourism in a month. Summer is the highest. Although we still have a young tourism here, we always want to grow and be like Boracay, Cebu, Iloilo, among other popular destinations where tourists’ reception is every day,” Lazarito said.

Catalino Chan III, Department of Tourism-Northern Mindanao (DOT-10) regional director, said their agency is gearing into stricter guidelines as regards accepting incoming tour operators in the industry.

“They must undergo training for 21 days. Tour guides must know themselves, their competitors and the history of the places they are guiding their tourists in. We even have mock tours to see if they can pass,” Chan said.

“We also look into the communication skills of the tour guides. Voice quality has to be good. Also, tour guides in the country must be at par with other tour guides who can speak Spanish, Korean, French and other languages,” he said.

Tourism in Cagayan de Oro is more focused on eco-tourism since there are more natural sceneries in the city, he added.

“With the Asean integration in 2015, competencies among tour operators have to be really upgraded than ever. Those schools who integrated tour guiding in their courses have to upgrade also. Basically, with how we see it now, we are prepared already for it,” Chan said.

Safe white water rafting in Oro

During the convention, talks about the recent whitewater rafting accident involving the death of the 26-year-old nurse from Loboc, Bohol during a rafting run on June 13 circulated among the participants.

“With uniform information, damages and shortcomings will be certainly reduced through this convention,” Fernandez said citing the recent incident.

“I guess you just cannot control nature. At some point, we understand that she can be really that powerful. And everybody has to encompass each other when rafting,” he added.

Lazarito said the incident paved way for a stronger unity among tour operators in Cagayan de Oro.

“They (rafting tours) will not be deterred actually. But with the sad news, this will teach tour operators to be more careful in taking guests to extreme adventure. In fact, 78 tour operators, the ambassadors of tourism in the country, did a whitewater rafting [and concluded Cagayan de Oro] is still a safe place for white water rafting,” he added.

Chan added that with whitewater rafting in the city, throughout the years Northern Mindanao often wins biddings for holding of conventions.

“Guides are well-trained, it was just really nature,” he said, referring to the incident.