So You Want To Become A Tour Guide?

Here’s how it’s done and what it takes
BY: RICKEY STEVENS

Who knew there is a professional education program that certifies all tour guides in Mexico? Really!

Given the increasingly competitive global market for destinations to attract tourists, the federal tourism agency, (SECTUR), believes that visitors who have a positive, professional experience in Mexico recommend Mexico to their family and friends and that they will return themselves. To this end, SECTUR is actively promoting the importance of tour guide certification to ensure that the tourist experience is pleasant, memorable, professional, and represents the country properly.

tour guide.jpgAt a graduation ceremony students received their certification in one of four categories: General tour guide, specialized tour guide for a local area, adventure or nature.

The general tour guide certificate requires a person to command a comprehensive mastery of the tourist attractions of the entire country so they can work nationwide and so they can be a driver-guide in their own vehicle. Course topics for the general include archaeology, general history of art, pre-Columbian art, colonial art, modern and contemporary art, ethnography and folk art, tourist geography, history of Mexico, human relations, group leadership, tourism law, and cultural tourism.

This general tour guide certificate is a four month program that requires 510 hours of theoretical and field training. Students must receive an 80% or higher score on exams, pass an English exam (or take an English course, $220 USD), pass a first aid course, (20 hours, $60), and must have shown up 80% of the time.

The cost of the general tour guide is $1300, but there is an 80% discount for low income students. To maintain their certification, students have to attend either one 40 hour recertification course each year or one 160 hour recertification course every four years that costs $600.

Hugo Rodrigo and Oscar Ortiz are two students who recently received their certification in the graduation ceremony. Hugo is a first time graduate while Oscar obtained his recertification of his original diploma from four years ago.

 Hugo became interested after travelling in the U.S. and Mexico where he learned that a good tour guide could change one’s experience and appreciation of a destination. It was challenging for him to get through the program as he worked during the day at a restaurant, and then had to attend classes from 4:00 pm to 9 pm, Monday to Friday. However, Hugo believes the time and exhaustion were worth it as he learned a lot and is excited to show visitors the real Mexico. He hopes to start his own business in eco-tours in a few years.

For Oscar, getting his recertifications was something that he looked forward to and especially enjoyed the courses in art history, ethnography, geology, and tourism legislation.

He believes the program is important to ensure a consistent, high quality experience for visitors to Mexico. He actively encourages his employees to be certified.

For more information about the tour guide certification program, you can visit the S.I.I.T. web site at www.sitcabo.com or for program qualification information visit the SECTUR web site at http://www.sectur.gob.mx/tramites-y-servicios/certificacion-turistica/ac.... The SECTUR web page also has a link to the official directory of 2015 certified Tour Guides.

Warning: The site is only in Spanish. And why is that, we asked? Because the program is only for Mexicans; no foreigners need apply to become a tour guide.