Overheard on tour

Licensed tour guide Choo Joke Ling (second from left) in a Chinatown heritage tour. It is now compulsory for tourist guides to wear their official badges prominently, making it easier to tell who is legitimate.

SINGAPORE - It's about time.

That's the sentiment from local licensed tourist guides about the recently passed Singapore Tourism Board (Amendment) Bill.

The bill brings new regulations for tourist guides and strengthens existing laws against rogue guides.

Those suspected to be operating without a licence can now be searched, questioned and arrested on the spot.

And it is now compulsory for tourist guides to wear their official badges prominently, making it easier to tell who is legitimate.

Illegal guides can be spotted at tourist hotspots such as Chinatown and Bugis Village.

"I frequently see unlicensed tour guides at Merlion Park and Sentosa's Songs of the Sea attraction," says Miss Jackie Lau, 58, a licensed tourist guide of over 15 years.

"These so-called guides (and their parties) frequent these areas on weekend mornings."

The licensed tour guides TNPS spoke to say many of the rogue operators come into Singapore with tour parties rather than tout their services near attractions.

But the issue for local operators is not their origin. Rather, it is the rogue guides' lack of local knowledge and the false information they impart.

"Once, I overheard a guide say that the Merlion is a dragon," says 70-year-old guide Jimmy Quek, who has been a full-time tourist guide for 10 years.

"I went up to him and said, 'Sir, this is not a dragon, this is our Merlion - half lion, half fish'."

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