MALACCA SORELY LACKS HERITAGE TOUR(S)April 24, 2011
If historical buildings, churches, forts and temples could talk, they would spin one heck of a story. Unfortunately, they can’t. So most of us still need well-informed and articulate guides to wax lyrical as we hop into the time machine.
Yet heritage tour is what Malacca sorely lacks.
Despite its rich history and kaleidoscopic cultures, the city doesn’t “sell” its historic walks — there are no designated historical routes, heritage maps or specially trained guides who can cater to heritage aficionados or history buffs.
“I would say about 30% of our tour guides (out of 123 registered guides in Malacca), especially the senior guides, can conduct heritage tours,” claims Zamzam Kassim, the chairman of Malacca Historic City Tourist Guides Association (MHCTGA). In 2010, tourist arrivals in Malacca topped 10.4 million. “But I think we do need to groom ‘storytellers’ who can present Malacca’s stories and run a well designed and interesting walking tour.”
Of course, most guides are good at rattling off historical facts, naming people and places but at times the information is sketchy, distorted and lacks a storyline.
The rare exception is Penang’s popular walking tours run by Penang Heritage Trust (PHT). Through their own initiative, PHT designed thematic walking tours and trained city guides to interpret George Town’s colourful heritage.
“We must admit that licensed tourist guides in our country have been interpreting heritage through different angles,” says Jimmy Leong Wie Kong, the president of Malaysian Tourist Guides Council (MTGC). But the good news is, certified heritage guides will be roaming the streets of Malacca and George Town as early as September 2011 if the Ministry of Tourism (Motour) has its way.
Motour is scheduled to launch the pilot Cultural Heritage Specialist Guides (CHSG) course in July this year. Working closely with government agencies and NGOs including the National Heritage Department, PHT, Badan Warisan Malaysia, MTGC and Association of Tourism Training Institute Malaysia (ATTIM), the Ministry is drawing up training modules for the two-week course. The course will be held in Malacca and George Town, the two cities listed under Unesco World Heritage sites. “Based on Unesco guidelines, the course will train guides to do heritage interpretation, deliver accurate information on the World Cultural Heritage site, promote conservation and involve the local communities,” explains Ivin Mercy of Motour’s Industry Development Division. “A confirmed, licensed tourist guide, with at least two years of guiding experience, is eligible to enrol for the course.”
“With the CHSG training programme, successful participants should be armed with the knowledge and skills to plan heritage walks,” adds Leong. “Planning and designating routes for heritage trails should be done by the local tourist associations who can work with other tourism-related NGOs such as Badan Warisan.”
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