In an indication that talk about a coming big increase in Chinese tourism isn’t just a public relations fantasy, the Tourism Ministry announced on Monday its plan to address the lack of Chinese-speaking tour guides.
The ministry will offer a 15,000 shekel grant from the beginning of the upcoming academic year to undergraduate or graduate students of East Asia studies who take the Tourism Ministry tour guide licensing course.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Sunday presented licenses to about 190 tour guides who successfully completed the tour guiding licensing course. At the ceremony, which took place in the ministry offices in the presence of Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevy, the minister noted that the participants had finally reached the completion of a long and demanding training process of the highest quality.
“From today, you are full partners with the Tourism Ministry in promoting tourism to Israel. In my view, the tour guide is the eyes, ears and heart through which the tourist experiences Israel and therefore we invest significantly in nurturing and ensuring the professionalism of tour guides.”
There are about 5,000 active licensed tour guides from a total of about 9,000 with current licenses. The tour guides course lasts about two years, with more than 500 study hours and 83 field days. About 75 percent pass the course, on average, and receive a license which must be renewed every two years.
Incoming tourism from China is one of the fastest growing sources of tourism to Israel, with an increase of 59 percent in August over the same month in 2015 and 108 percent over 2014.