Thursday, October 7, 2021

Campaign for Tour Guide Privatization


Tourist guides, updating a claim

Guía de turismo

Recently, a small group of tour guides was summoned for a meeting with representatives of MINTUR and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS) at the headquarters of the governing body of labor in the country. The objective of those summoned was to demand that the prohibition of carrying out the activity of tourist guide on their own be eliminated.

The meeting was cordial and friendly; full collaboration and understanding on the part of those involved in the tourism sector, which included advisors and deputy ministers. In almost every aspect there was total empathy, but right at the end of the meeting the question of the clash was asked: self-employment will henceforth be governed by projects. So what will be yours?

Faced with such a questioning, any professional in that field would answer that their project would include guiding in any of the meanings of the term, whether for an agency or not; whether to show landscapes, history or the culture of a certain product. Promote yourself, make yourself known, create a prestige, that's the claim: you need an authorization to perform that function. What would be the project of an interpreter other than interpreting? What would be the project of a chapista, other than chapistear?

In the opinion of this commentator, who was part of the aforementioned group, the exact question should have asked what would be the scope of the guide's activity (small car, four clients at most, zero room blocking, zero promotion of optional and things like that). However, the doubt arises because, under current conditions, these ventures cannot be approved since all their related activities are prohibited for self-employment. And so the counter-question arises: is it not better to exclude the activity from the list of prohibitions than to speculate how to do without doing?

There are thousands of occasions when we are assured that self-employment is here to stay on the national stage. So, it is not idle to reflect on why TCPs, MSMEs and Cooperatives are born slowed down from their genesis.

Tour guide (2)

As the sector is fragile, as has been demonstrated, how many would be willing to risk such a fluctuation and lose the benefits of a safe position? (Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP)

Presumably, in the case of tourism, there is a great fear that professionals from one of the highest income sectors of the country will leave. It is logical, but it does not show good knowledge of the guild. Many guides will always prefer the convenience of an agency that calls them regularly without having to suffer the instability of a venture and pay high taxes for their work.

As the sector is fragile, as has been demonstrated, how many would be willing to risk such a fluctuation and lose the benefits of a safe position? Considering that their independent role could be combined with work for an agency, that suspicion does not seem very objective.

Wouldn't it be wiser to negotiate limits before banning something that is going to happen on a large scale anyway? Didn't we once sell dollars, trips and hundreds of other things that, faced with the impossibility of controlling, we then had to allow and legislate?

A recent example is the repeal of Resolution 213 of August 16, 2021 of the Central Bank of Cuba, which stipulated that loans to small and medium-sized enterprises would be granted in Cuban pesos. Less than a month later, it is established, through Resolution 249 – of September 2021 – that financing can also be in foreign currency. A month later! Why delay what is inevitably going to happen?

Isn't it easier to make a calculation of what a guide in an agency represents monetarily and what it would mean if that same guide (and others) contributed a monthly amount in taxes resulting from their private activity? And what about the clients who will win and who will never be captured by the big agencies.

If it is assured that the idea is to add, the most coherent thing should be to eliminate the activity of tourist guide among the prohibited, and thus begin the summation through their ventures. Why mask the activity after a project and not issue a certification that allows you to perform in compliance with the relevant controls and certifications? The most consistent with the current times would be to reach an agreement of quantities, rules, certifications and obligations, as has already happened with the direct partner of that guide: the taxi driver.

Tour guide (3)

The most consistent with the current times would be to reach an agreement of quantities, rules, certifications and obligations, as has already happened with the direct partner of that guide: the taxi driver. (Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP)

The answer continues to revolve around fear, as if prohibitions solve the problem of the lack, quality or private practice of that activity. If we know that it is going to happen anyway, why not take advantage of it and legislate in favor of the institutions and the State?

In the golden age of tourism, when we were trying to reach five million visitors, many ways of playing the role of guides emerged; say the driver of a taxi, an old car, a buggy, a pedicab, not including other "unscrupulous" – quote from the Minister of Labor – who ended up locating Calixto García on the heights of G Street, observing the city from its peak, and José Miguel Gómez modestly facing the sea. Meanwhile, the real guide, the one trained in respect for heritage and love for history, never achieved his claim.

It is practical in much of the world that the tourist guide receives a state or national certification and is agency with an operator, given the economic benefits that this offers, but it is still relatively independent; that is, even in the face of the apparent freedom they hold, the guides remain allied at the behest of large operations.

In our case, if a tour guide can enter a certain amount into the budget six months of the year, it would be necessary to calculate if the average taxes, between 15 and 30%, are not reasonable amounts, especially when that guide may also operate for an agency; or maybe not, but have enough vision to manage direct investment in a territory through a local development project, via tourism and its corresponding promotion.

It cannot be preferable to persecute any "unscrupulous" person who stalks the tourist, than to stipulate the mechanisms that lead to proper certification. Coachmen, taxi drivers, bicycle riders and drivers of old cars, are no more tourist guides than those who unsuccessfully request the release of the activity.

In a short time, tourism will prosper again and again an immense police force will be required to identify who sells, who promotes, who rules, who moves; when, by a simple formal stroke, all that apprehension could be turned into hard currency for the country.

Decree-Law 44 of 2021 on the exercise of Self-Employment has been cited as containing the impediment to perform the functions of a guide, but in that same decree it is already exempt from the prohibitions to accommodation and the carrier. So, there is no need to postpone the next step. In my opinion, the imbrication of actors continues to be the determining factor. However, the actors that appear must be born with full capacities to contribute, a key term to get us out of the economic crisis.

Why break your head in the making of a project that convinces someone that it does not violate prohibitions and thus get an approval? Is it not known what needs to be eliminated to bring to fruition the drama that for months hundreds of people and groups have made visible in the networks through publications and pages?

The real solution will be to interwoven, decriminalize the function and sit down to negotiate on scopes. Then the projects will come. In this way, all our visitors will be able to know that those who observe the city from the height of Avenida G are far from carrying a name as illustrious as that of the one who decided to shoot himself before falling prisoner of Spanish power.

See Facebook page of  Tourist Guides for Legalization as Self Employed Workers (TCP)

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