The idea of this article came to me after two comments on Facebook. The two questioned the usefulness of a tour guide while traveling in India.
The first comment asked whether a tour guide was useful or whether a driver was sufficient. In the second, someone commented that tour agencies are thieves and that the locals should be better used directly.
The profession of tourist guide in India
What is being a tour guide?
Be a tour guide
I’m going to start by telling you about a job that we hold at Akvin Tourism, that is of tour guide.
A tour guide is a person who accompanies you on your trip and who enlightens you on the elements that you will see. He is a person who puts history into perspective and simplifies it to help you understand the monuments and their importance. He is also a person who is able to explain cultural facts to you and who can answer all your related questions, even the most distant from the tour. A good tour guide, and even more so for a tour guide in India, is one who will not recite a lesson by heart but who will relive history through anecdotes and other details.
Being a tour guide in India
This is also a question that is often asked to us. Do we offer tours all over India? The “NO” answer that is obvious to us does not seem to be that much to everyone. Let’s start from the base. India is a big country. VERY large country. It covers the same area as Europe from Portugal to Poland. If it would not occur to you to hire a German (who lives in Germany) to visit Spain, why it should be in India? In India, it’s the same. Each state has its culture, language, customs and history.
The History of Maharashtra has nothing to do with the History of Rajasthan. Tamil is as far from Hindi as German from Italian. So I know some people will say it’s the same religion. It is true except that there are 3.3 million Gods in Hinduism. Many of the gods depicted in the southern temples are not known to the northern Indians. Your trip to South India will therefore be different from your trip to North India. An excellent Kerala tour guide can be extremely disappointing in Tamil Nadul.
A guide agency for what?
An agency like Akvin Tourism, is an agency of tourist guides which has given itself the mission to make you know a forgotten state of the tourist circle. For 3 years, we have been visiting Maharashtra to discover unique places with an impressive past in order to make your trip a unique moment. Quality is one of our driving forces. This is why we take special care with our historical and cultural knowledge. We are always looking for the latest scientific information on the history of this beautiful state. We are in constant contact with historians.
All of this takes time and personal commitment that is not possible in other parts of India.
Of course, you will always have unscrupulous agencies or guides who will tell you that they can do anything. Again would you take a Portuguese (who lives in Portugal) to visit Poland?
Tourist guide versus companion
As its name suggests, a companion is a person who accompanies. He is a person who is there to manage reservations, the smooth running of the trip. In any case, a guide has specific information of the places to be visited. He will follow the plan prepared in advance and will leave no room for improvisation.
Tourist guide versus driver
Again, the name suggests, a driver is a person who will transport you from point A to point B. A driver can give basic directions to a place or monument. He will not be able to fully explain the history of the places to be visited or of the different statues and their meaning.
As an example, a deception that we discovered recently: Many agencies offer to see the tomb of Aurangzeb at the same time as the visit of Ellora. In order not to waste time on the return, ordinary drivers show a grave on the road, any grave. And without shame, they say that it is that of the emperor. Which is absolutely false. They save 30 to 45 minutes on their visit.
Why choose a tour agency to organise your trip?
In the world of tourism, there is something for everyone. All prices, all styles, all themes to make it fit in your budget and to make it interesting.
How to choose an agency?
A trip to India should be prepared before you leave country, you can choose an agency. But before that, it is important to define what is expected from the stay in India. A trip organized in a tourist place is not the same as a trip for two in a region that is not very touristy but very cultural. Once your desires and your trip have been defined, or at least the general idea, you can start looking for your agency.
A particular approach
Akvin Tourism is an agency which has a particular approach. As you can see here, we are committed to sustainable tourism and local development.
Regarding our tours in India, we have made choices of authenticity. We suggest that you think outside the box. Also, we do not folklorize Indian culture. Or we do not create false religious ceremonies or false marriages to enhance our tours. We show you India as it really is. It’s a beautiful country with a rich culture that doesn’t need artifices to amaze. The splendours of India are well known and sufficient. We also adapt to your desires with customized tours.
We have also taken the gamble to show you unknown and still virgin places for mass tourism. These wonders are still intact. This allows direct contact with the populations and above all sincere contact.
We have specialized in Maharashtra to have a detailed knowledge of this state and to meet your best expectations and desires. The state of Maharashtra is rich enough to offer a historical, spiritual, relaxation, nature or luxurious tour.
It is therefore obvious that if you want to see the most famous monuments of India like the Taj Mahal, or if you want to do a classic tour, we will not be the right agency for you.
Agency versus local people?
Often there is a somewhat simplistic view of tourism from westerners. The agencies are fattening on the backs of the locals. This is why we often hear people say that it is better to go directly to the locals than to go through an agency.
Obviously, there is everything in the tourism sector.
As far as we are concerned, we use part of our profits for local development. We support already existing actions and we also support new actions.
This is the case for the village of Charthana. In January 2019, we visited this village invited by the locals to see if there was the possibility of developing sustainable tourism. The village is magnificent and has unsuspected treasures. After our audit, we listed a series of actions to take. After several meetings with the locals, we have launched a clean-up campaign to be held on January 12, 2020. We had conference on environmental awareness and heritage protection.
Our agency does not take advantage of local people but works with them for a fair and sustainable development.
When you hire a local, does he support development projects?
Charity is not in our values
We often see tours in India where participants are offered to visit a school to distribute pencils and notebooks. We do not believe in the value of these actions. When you give a pencil or a notebook, you are providing ad hoc and unsustainable help. We prefer actions that take place over time and that benefit the greatest number. This allows local populations to take responsibility and take charge of their own destiny. We are part of the future and not of an selfish present.
To conclude the ‘tour guide in India’ as elsewhere, is a real job that requires specific knowledge and skills. If you have any questions or comments about this article, please don’t hesitate to contact us.