It was a role reversal for the growing fraternity of tourist guides in the UAE as they celebrated the International Tourist Guide Day on Wednesday (February 22). The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority took them on a tour to Sharjah’s world renowned archeological sites and tourist attractions on the East Coast as part of its celebrations for the International Tourist Guide Day.

The full day master class took professional tourist guides representing a diverse mix of nationalities to the important archaeological sites of Kalba, Khatm Al Maliha and Wadi Al Helou. The tour was led by the expert archaeologist Mr Eisa Abbas from the Directorate of Antiquities of Sharjah’s Department of Culture and Information. Professional tourist guides from leading tour operators such as Arabian Adventures and Orient Tours participated in the event.

The tourist guides professionals received a rare, up close perspective and insight into the rich heritage and history of Sharjah’s East coast from Mr Eisa and SCTDA officials who had organised the master class.
However, it was education with a difference — and loads of fun — as the participants had the pleasure of exploring the natural beauty of Kalba mangroves, the oldest in Arabia, on kayaks and mountain biking in the acacia tree forest. Those outdoor activities were conducted by Absolute Adventures.

Commenting on the initiative, SCTDA Chairman Mohamed Ali Al Noman said Sharjah has been making constant efforts to enhance quality standards of the tourism industry in the emirate according to international norms. “Tourist guides play a crucial role in presenting and interpreting any tourist destination and in enriching a visitor’s experience,” he emphasised.

Given the increasing numbers of international tourist arrivals in Sharjah in recent months and years and the growing need for trained and qualified tourist guides, the development of the professional industry remains high on the agenda of the Authority, said Al Noman.

Participants represented the best of the best of travel and tourism industry in the country. Coordinated and initiated by the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (WFTGA), the International Tourist Guide Day was first held on February 21 1990, when tourist guides from 15 WFTGA member countries participated. This year, however, tourist guides in more than 60 countries have celebrated this day.

WFTGA, an NGO in operational relations to UNESCO, is the global body for tourist guides with more than 120,000 members in 65 countries. Members of the WFTGA are all professional and qualified tourist guides who adhere to a Code of Practice and Quality Charter. The SCTDA has lined up more educational and training initiatives for the tourist guides in months ahead, in addition to its standard tourist guide license course.