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What is A Tourist Guide?


At the National Department of Tourism we measure success not only in the visitor numbers, but in the experiences we create, the new opportunities for meaningful employment and growth and the understanding that is fostered between people from different backgrounds and different corners of the world and our tourist guides play an integral role in this.​

Tourist Guides are often one of the first people to welcome tourists and the last to bid them farewell. Their role is to enhance our visitors' experience and be ambassadors for South Africa as a tourist destination.

Definition of Tourist Guide

Tourist Guides act as ambassadors of the country, they are the first to meet and welcome tourists and they are often the last ones to bid farewell to them when they leave the country. ​

Various international organizations such as the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations (WFTGA) define a tourist guide as the person who guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of​ an area, which person may possess an area specific qualification. Such specifications are usually issued and/or recognized by the appropriate authority. 

A tourist guide is someone who points out the way and leads others on a trip or tour. Generally, a tourist guide will work at a specific location, city or province. In some cases, guides qualify to guide throughout an entire country. 

According to the Tourism Act No. 3 of 2014, Tourist guide means any person registered as such under section 50 and who for reward accompanies any person who travels within or visits any place within the Republic and who furnishes such person with information or comments.

Importance of Tourist Guides

Tourist guiding is a very critical component of the tourism value chain. They play an essential role in ensuring repeat tourist visitation to South Africa through creating a positive image of our country. 
In South Africa, tourist guiding is a regulated profession governed by national legislation and policies. Any person that would like to become a tourist guide must undergo training as part of a formal qualification registered by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), Upon being deemed competent, such person will receive a certificate issued by the Culture, Arts,​ Tourism Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA), Such person must then apply to the relevant Provincial Registrar to be registered in order to operate legally. This process unfolds as prescribed in the Tourism Act, 2014 and the Regulations in respect of Tourist Guides, 1994 and 2001 respectively. 

Characteristics of Tourist Guides

The role and function of a guide is to organise, inform and entertain. Guides are mainly freelance and self-employed. Work is often seasonal and​ may involve working during unsociable hours. Work is usually obtained through direct contact with tour operators and other agencies and therefore, guides must be self-sufficient and be able to market themselves. 
The manner in which tourist guides interact and treat tourists is very important because it gives a lasting impression about the country in general. The Code of Conduct and Ethics that tourist guides signs prescribes the way in which qualified, legally registered tourist guides must conduct themselves whilst on duty. Registered tourist guides who fail to abide by the Code of Conduct and Ethics could be subjected to formal disciplinary hearings and be charged with ​misconduct. 


Categories of Tourist Guiding in South Africa

There are three categories of tourist guides in South Africa namely:

  • National Guide,
  • Provincial Guide and
  • Site Guide

 Areas of Speciliasation

​There are three main areas of specialisation for tourist guides namely:

  • Nature,
  • Culture and
  • Adventure