Local travel agencies will be able to hire more non-resident workers (TNR) as tour guides, under the bill to update existing laws regulating such activity.

Although hiring TNRs as tour guides is not new, the new law will establish more specific criteria for their employment.

The new law will fix a duration for their employment and restrict the hiring of TNRs to agencies that need professionals with special language skills, those who can communicate in languages that are not in common use in Macau.

The director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, spoke during the Executive Council’s presentation of the new bill late last week.

She said new specific provisions will allow travel agencies to more easily hire the professionals they need, for a specific period.

They will also enable Macau to diversify its visitor sources and to attract more visitors from different countries and regions.

According to Senna Fernandes, over 1,758 tour guides are local residents and just 17 are TNRs.

Senna Fernandes said the requirements will be basically the same as for other tour guides.

That is, before operating tours, TNR will need a certification and license from the Macao University of Tourism (formerly the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies).

The bill also includes several changes such as on professional ethics.

Stricter rules will govern Tour guides’ actions. They can undertake to sell a tourism service and follow the travel plan originally contracted with the clients.

The MGTO director said there are not many cases of infractions or complaints of wrongdoing of this kind but the government still wants the law to state clearly how the professionals of the tourism sector must act to avoid grey areas.

One of the practices the new law will ban is the offering of services below the real cost of the service, the so-called “zero-cost tours.”

Such tours have, in the past, caused disputes between tourists and guides, with guides forcing visitors to acquire goods and products in particular shops and following a minimum ceiling for expenditure.

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