11 - 17 April 2001

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Cowboy tourist guides irk 'bona fide' operators

By Miriam Dunn

'Bona fide' tourist guides are up in arms over the blatant way in which their cowboy counterparts are stealing their work, while the authorities are apparently closing their eyes.

Vince Debono, the president of the Malta Union of Tourist Guides, told The Business Times that he and his colleagues were fed up with watching work being snatched away from under their noses.

"We have complained to all the authorities – the police, the Tourism ministry and the Hotel and Catering Establishment Board, but nothing has been done," he said. "Now we have reached the end of our tether – it is time for action."
Mr Debono explained that the situation is very annoying for ‘bona fide' tourist guides since they undertake a course and obtain a licence to operate, while unqualified guides are undercutting them to get the work.

"There is a list of above-board guides which is published by the ministry, but some travel agencies and other organisations that use guides simply ignore the list, opting instead for these other guides that are not registered," he said.

He also questioned whether the cowboy guides had "friends in high places", since the union's complaints appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, even though they had been registered at high levels.

Mr Debono said that apart from the fact that the MUTG members are losing work, there is also a fear that the cowboy guides are not doing a professional job, thereby sending tourists home with an unsatisfactory guided tour, which could mar their holiday.

"This is our final attempt to get something done – after this we will consider what further action to take," the MUTG president warned.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt