Tour Guides and Sustainable Development: the Case of Hainan, China
Tour guides are one of the most visible players in tourism but little scholarly attention has been given to the links that tour guides may have with sustainable development. This study addresses the gap by promoting an understanding of how tour guides can assist in moving tourism in a sustainable direction. Sustainable development is expected to improve the quality of life for all people without causing undesirable ecological and socio-cultural outcomes. As a central agent in the entire tourism system, tour guides have a variety of roles to play in response to the expectations of the various tourism stakeholders. A literature review suggests that tour guides can contribute to destinations'sustainable development by exerting their functions on experience management, resources management and local economic promotion. Interpretative guiding is the means by which tour guides can realize these above potentials. A case study was conducted in Hainan, China. The guiding performance there was examined to see whether and to what extent tour guides are contributing to the achievement of local sustainability. It was discovered that the tour guides in Hainan do not exert (well) their expected functions either in enhancing enjoyable experiences for tourists, in supporting local resource conservation, or in promoting the healthy development of the local economy. Their potentials are blocked by the issues and problems of instant money-making-centered guiding conduct, below-cost group receiving industry practices and unfair remuneration system for the guides, absence of protection measures to ensure the guides’ interests, opportunism in guiding and lenient certificating requirements, lack of professionalism and effective training, ineffective monitoring measures, and limited awareness of sustainable development. In order to better the situation, unhealthy travel and trade industry practice should be banned; effective certificating, training and monitoring measures should be developed and implemented; tour guides’ personal interests should be protected and local awareness of sustainability, in particular that of the industry members, should be fostered. Serious efforts of the government administration as well as industry members and tour guides are required if tour guides are to fulfill their potential as agents of sustainable development.