Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Market for Local Guides

Despite all the pleasures of seeing new sites, one annoyance that I least look forward to is the rush of tourist guides that surround and hound you. Usually these would be young dudes who claim to show you all the sites at a very enticing price. Recently at Jaipur, we were also approached by "government approved" tourist guides with even a proper name tag. The dilemma facing the average Indian tourist seems quite serious: do you choose the government guide who has a fixed charge or you choose the unlicensed young dude at sometimes even half the price?

If you look at the service that these guides provide, its basically history of the particular monument and if you are lucky some additional stories as a value addition! The guides also differentiates their service as per language, we could hear guides rattling off Japanese, Spanish, German...you name it. A new competitor on the scene-the audio guide-is also giving taking away some (not that much as audio guides are largely preferred by foreign tourists) clients. Since I am a big fan of the audio guide and Parth of the live version, potential guides often try very hard to persuade me to change my mind, my favourite one, "Madam, see the audio guide cannot answer your questions, you only listen!" So given the competition but just from other guides but also from this machine, one can understand that this is a market of the "survival of the most persuasive"!

Now the question is of authenticity of information and fair price. How do you know whether what you are being told is accurate and secondly what you are being charged is a fare price? One can say that competition can improve quality, but then how do I really know whether the information being shared is authentic or not? Also how does the government certificate ensure that the information provided is authentic or not?

Well wouldn't this make for an interesting research on your next trip?

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