Omani women ‘guiding force’ for tourists

For Mai bint Salim bin Khalaf al Kaabiyah, a student of Oman Tourism College working as a tourist guide, the experience is “fulfilling and fun” as it provides an opportunity to exchange cultures and learn new languages.
Mai al Kaabiyah is one of the 232 licensed Omani tourist guides spread across governorates, while the total number as of June 2018 stood at 340. Besides, there are 83 local guides, according to tourist guidance department of the Ministry of Tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism has been laying emphasis on tourist guides as they are partners in implementing plans and strategies to improve the tourism sector. They play an active role in pushing the wheels of tourism.
While there is an increase in the number of applications from Omanis seeking licence to work as tourist guides, more Omani women are showing interest in working as tourist guides now than in the past.
Mai al Kaabiyah, for instance, said she started work as a tourist guide when she was in her second year at the Oman Tourism College and studying a paper on tourism guidance. “I applied to the Ministry of Tourism for a tourist guide licence and got it.” As a guide, she developed some skills, for example, the skills to lead large groups of tourists and abide by time schedules. “I also learned about Oman’s tourist destinations closely.” She said the Omani tourist guides will have a bright future if they know French, German and Italian languages as well.
She said the profession offers “good financial returns.” “It is a great source of income for both male and female students as they do not have a permanent job during their studies.” Rafeeda al Ruwahiyah, a woman guide, says her work is “full of fun and provides opportunities for exploration and improvement.”
“This is an area that requires deep knowledge as well as a cheerful and warm personality. There is strong competition among tourist guides to highlight the Sultanate in a beautiful manner.” According to her, tourist guides should have knowledge and experience of the locations, a cheerful personality and an intuitive mind to be quick in solving problems faced during the tour.
Asked if the profession is financially feasible, she said it offered huge financial benefits.
Fatima al Balushiah, a tourist guide, said she has “learnt a lot and received lots of benefits.”
“Talking to tourists boosted my confidence levels and I learnt how to organise activities to make a tour successful,” she said.
She says by “portraying a correct picture of the country,” it helps tour guides win the trust of tourists. “I have also learned how to handle as many as 40 tourists at a time.” A guide, she says, should have qualities that represent the society and the country before the tourists.
“The most important thing is trust a guide gains from tourists, besides the communication skills, time management and loyalty to the profession.”
The ministry is trying to inculcate a sense of quality standards for tourist guides. It also wants to create awareness among those who work in the area and support them to develop competitive skills at the local level.