Meet Nicholas Kiritu, Chairman Kenya Tour Driver Guides Association
What was the state of the industry before Covid-19 struck?
We were doing very well, especially when the political temperatures went down and there were fewer terrorist attacks and everyone was happy that tourism was bouncing back.
The year looked promising due to higher bookings by tour firms. There were no travel bans from international communities and we were very optimistic.
What’s your group’s mandate?
KTDGA was formed in 2006 as a membership association for practicing tour guides and driver guides in Kenya.
The aim was to ensure order and discipline in the fraternity and to work well with stakeholders.
Also, we came in as the voice of the members to the government (mainly Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the Tourism Regulatory Authority), the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA), the hospitality sector and other stakeholders.
What misconceptions does the industry have on tour guides?
Some people thought that tour guides are not disciplined as they are mainly freelancers. They considered us as uninformed as many lacked the required certifications.
But through meetings with various associations in conjunction with theTourism Regulatory Authority, we have been able to redeem our trust and recognition through trainings, tourism courses and certifications.
How can guides make game drives more interesting nowadays?
We encourage tour guides to read widely and when the workloads is less (low season), to attend short trainings to add on the knowledge they have and updates themselves on guiding and marketing skills as well as customer relations.
In conjunction with Utalii College, Kenya Wildlife Service, National Museums of Kenya and Nature Kenya, guides undertake refresher courses.
Out of Nairobi, we have trainings for instance at Koiyaki Guiding School in the Maasai Mara, which trains guides in that region for standardisation.
Guides also take the initiative to educate their colleague online in various WhatsApp groups.
What challenges do guides face?
Guiding is not as easy as people think: You have to deliver and exceed guests’ expectation and ensure they have a memorable safari. Patience also is something I have learnt to have in this job.
Some guests are unappreciative and grumble all the time. One problem is that speed governors installed in our vehicles, floods and mud slides impede our keeping.
Also, some facilities don’t care with food and accommodation for tour guides, just for the guests.