Tourist Guide Training in Puerto Rico

BACKGROUND:

  • At this moment, there are more than 250 certified tour guides in Puerto Rico by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC); the program started in the mid 80´s.
  • In order to obtain the certification, you must take at least 200 contact hours of tourism, heritage and other related courses.
  • The exam consists of two parts: (1) written test and (2) oral presentation (simulating a tour).
  • In the past, after the Hotel School closed, the few trainers offering the course were only looking for their students to pass the exam without taking care of the different skills that a tour guide should develop. The whole course was based on photocopy of the HANDBOOK OF PROFESSIONAL TOUR MANAGEMENT by Robert T. Reilly (1982).
  • As part of the requirements for the renewal of the license (every 4 years), the PRTC offers 8 to 12 continuing education seminars during the year; you need to take at least 4 per year, henceforth, 16 seminars in a period of 4 years.
  • These 1-1/2 hr. seminars are offered on Friday nights at the PRTC headquarters with different themes and speakers.
  • By the ´80´s, National Park Service started their interpretation program, henceforth, only their employees were trained as site interpreters; by the end of the ´80´s, Forest Service copied the program and started offering talks and guided tours in the Caribbean National Forest.
  • I was certified as a Tour Guide on 1992.
  • Our Association was founded in November, 2002.
  • In April, 2003, we coordinated the first interpretation workshop in Puerto Rico.
  • In August, 2003, the National Association for Interpretation offered the first Certified Interpretive Guide workshop. I participated and was certified as a CGI. You don´t need to be a Tour Guide to take this 32 hrs. workshop.
  • By the end of 2003, we entered in a partnership with the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez to offer continuing education workshops and trainings.
  • In February, 2004, we coordinated an activity for tourism educators for the first time in Puerto Rico. During the Summer of 2004, two meetings took place at the PRTC with trainers and tourism educators. All of us evaluated the written part of the certification exam. The PRTC was looking for consistency in terms of the material that is included in the curriculum of the different institutions.
  • During 2004, public hearings took place for Project 4174, which was looking for the establishment of an Examination Board for Tour Guides, We participated and asked for the tour guide definition included in the project to be changed and that instead use the definition adopted by the WFTGA. The PRTC consultant that worked with this project is now the new Executive Director of the PRTC.
  • In August, 2004, we signed a contract with the PRTC to offer the first Interpretive Tour Guide Certification through the University of Puerto Rico for 14 participants of a training that was offered in the small Island of Vieques. The training consisted of 220 contact hours, of which 54% were dedicated to communication, presentation, and intepretive techniques through experiential learning. For the History of Vieques class, we hired an archeologist and the participants took the class at the archeological site. Most of them took the certification exam on March and are waiting for the results.
  • In September 29, 2004, the new law was signed, but the Examination Board has not be assigned yet by the new Governor. Since there has been a delay due to the transition with the new government, this law is supposed to start on January, 2006.
  • In February, 2006, we are planning to celebrate the first congress for Tour Guides.
  • In May, 2006, NAI will be sponsoring a world heritage convention.
  • At this moment, I´m writing a book for Tour Guides in which I´m focusing on skills and techniques.
  • As a consultant, I have been asked by two universities to design a curriculum for Tour Guides.
  • Also, PRTC asked us to develop a training for Certified Tour Guides and a possible Train the Trainer course for Tour Guide Trainers.
  • For the Tour Guide Training, to give you an idea, I have divided it in three:

FORMAL EDUCATION
Introduction to tourism (hospitality industry, eight sectors of the h/i, touristic culture, worldwide organism and code of ethics, etc.); quality control and customer service; touristic legislation (laws and mission of all government agencies in charge of our natural and cultural heritage, plus all other laws related to the eight sectors of the hospitality industry); Tour Guide (role, characteristics, protocol, code of ethics, etc.)
Specific information related to our country (archeology, history, geography, fauna, flora, culture, socio-economy, culture, art, gastronomy, touristic information) and research.

SKILLS (experiential learning)
Communication skills (presentation, interpretation, non-verbal communication).
Excursion techniques (interpretive planning, tour coordination, group guiding, niche market and specialization, such as adventure tour guide, ecoguide, etc.).

PRACTICUM
Internship, plus field trips/excursions designed by students.
This is more or less the idea of what our Association is working with in terms of a curriculum for Tour Guides focused on skills and techniques development. We are working closely with educators and consultants from Spain and Argentina. Also, we look forward to visit the Dominican Republic to assist them with their plans to train Interpretive Tour Guide. We believe that there is no need to certify interpreters with a 32 course if the techniques are included in the curriculum.
I will appreciate your comments on the above. If you have any questions, please contact me at your convenience.

Thanks.
Hilda Morales 

 

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