New Delhi – Travel and tour companies are confused following a government edict restricting who may serve as tour guides for trips to Putao in northern Burma.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism issued a directive, “for the safety of the tourists,” instructing travel and tour companies to use only ministry appointed tour guides in Putao, one of the most attractive tourist sites in all of Burma.
“It’s usual and nothing significant. Putao is a remote area. Our tour guides are being used for Kawthaung trips too. This new instruction and arrangement is for the safety of the tourists”, an official from Myanma Hotel and Tourism Services said.
But tour agencies suspect this new directive is designed to enhance surveillance on the movements of the tourists visiting the area.
“It is for the surveillance of tourists and their actions. Previously they sent either an Immigration Department official or police personnel with the tourists,” an official from a tour agency informed Mizzima.
Moreover tour and travel agencies dislike the arrangement of government officials accompanying the tourists as it is an additional cost to be borne by the tour companies.
“It’s not good for our tour company to use tour guides provided by the government agency. According to our company guidelines, we are to be free from government intervention in our operations”, a manager from another tour company told Mizzima.
A tour guide from Rangoon also said that tourists feel annoyed and bothered when government tour guides accompany them on their trips and watch their movements in what are to be vacations of leisure.
“We don’t want our customers disappointed. Our customer base will be strengthened only if they like and are satisfied with our tour operations. We will feel disappointed if they are disappointed with the new restriction”, he added.
But information coming from the community of tour companies indicates that a tour company has been exempted from the new regulation and can still go to the region with their own tour guides.
The Ministry, however, when contacted by Mizzima, replied that there are no official relaxations as yet on this new regulation.
Tour companies still have to hire local tour guides for their tour operations due to a lack of government tour guides and their non-familiarity with the location.
Tour guides can earn from fifteen to fifty dollars per day depending on their skills and work experience.
The Ministry said that the rate for government tour guides has not yet been fixed but they will be available at a cheaper rate than external tour guides.
The highest mountain in Burma, Khakaborazi, is located in the region of Putao.