How guides work in Belarus

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How guides work in Belarus

The visa-free regime has had a positive effect on the influx of tourists to Belarus.

Lately, there have been huge changes in the tourist industry. It's not just about the increasing number of visitors. More tourists mean more jobs in the service sector. It turns out that they are created even abroad: guides and illegal interpreters from neighboring countries can turn a simple excursion into a kind of alternative history of Belarus.

Annually more than half a million tourists visit Minsk. The only preparatory courses for guide-interpreters are in great demand in Belarus. These courses are attended by linguists or graduates of the Faculty of International Relations. Most of them work in the hospitality industry.

He, student of preparatory courses for guide-interpreters:
I believe that the guide-interpreter of the Chinese language is a huge demand and a great prospect in Belarus.

Yelena Likhimovich, deputy director of the National Tourism Agency:
There is a very bad situation with English-speaking guides in eastern Belarus. There’s no need to mention other languages, because they do not simply exist there.

On weekends, at the tourist parking near the synagogue in Grodno, you can easily find 10 or even 12 buses. Some 53,000 foreigners already took the opportunity to see the City of Kings. There are not enough guides for everyone.

Tatyana Piskun, travel agency director:
The guide is in great demand nowadays. And sometimes we even order guides who speak Polish in six months.

Tatiana Lidyaeva, deputy head of the sport and tourism department of the Grodno Oblast Executive Committee:
60% of Lithuanians took advantage of the visa-free regime. But we still do not have any certified Lithuanian guide-interpreter.

Meanwhile, the influx of tourists activates illegal guides. And it's not just about Belarusians who work unofficially. Many of our neighbors, especially Poles and Russians, come with their own guides. Illegal guides or, as they are called in the professional sphere, "varyagi", tell Belarusian history in their own way.

Sergey Donskikh, chairman of the Tourism and Cultural Heritage Department of the Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno:
There are two literary museums on the two sides of the park: the Museum of Ozheshko (a famous Polish writer) and the Museum of Bogdanovich (a famous Belarusian poet). The Belarusian guide points out two objects, the Polish guide points out only the Museum of Ozheshko.

Nikolay Chirsky, chairman of the Belarusian Public Association of guides and guide-interpreters:
In September, there were 20 foreign buses in Grodno. All of them with their own excursion guides. Their stories are harmful not only for the economy, but also for ideology. They contradict the real history of Belarus.

Meanwhile, the quality control mechanism for excursions is still missing in Belarus.

Yelena Likhimovich:
There are no strict measures for guides who have not passed the certification. We can simply say: "You do not have the certification. You are not allowed to conduct an excursion."

Tamara Fedortsova, candidate of geographical sciences, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Public Association of guides and guide-interpreters:
This situation is unacceptable, because Belarus is still a sovereign European state. You will not able to conduct an excursion anywhere in Europe. Severe penalties, sanctions and fines are common there. There is even the possibility of deportation.

The Ministry of Sport and Tourism sent a proposal to the parliament on imposing a fine for violation of excursion legislation. The proposed amount of the fine is 26 base amounts; it is more than 600 Belarusian rubles (about $300). The issue will be considered in 2018.

Today it is necessary to pass mandatory state certification in order to obtain a certificate of a guide or a guide-interpreter. The exam consists of computer testing and an oral examination. The qualification must be confirmed every 5 years.

The issue of training qualified personnel is especially relevant in the run-up to the Second European Games in 2019. Tour operators are developing new tour programs. The problem of skill gaps will be addressed on the basis of the Republican Institute for Higher Education. 

Alyona Lyubaya, head of the Department of Historical and Cultural Heritage of Belarus of the Republican Institute for Higher Education:
Next week, retraining for guides and guide-interpreters will be open. In September 2018, we plan to retrain guides to ensure that the prepared specialists can not simply read the learned material, but also could create their own excursion route, their own product.