The effectiveness of community guides in promoting tourism within Bwindi impenetrable national park, southwestern Uganda
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The majority of tour guiding research has focused on tour guides as the key front-line players in the tourism industry, and their knowledge and interpretive ability about the culture and attractions of tourist destinations are critical to converting a tourist's visit into an experience. However, it is unclear whether tour guides are competent and skilled in performing their duties. Therefore, the study evaluated the effectiveness of the community guides in the promotion of tourism around Buhoma. The study was guided by four objectives: to identify the tasks assigned to the community guides; to assess the technical skills possessed by the guides; to establish the challenges faced by the community tour guides in carrying out their duties; and to design strategies for addressing the capacity gaps. Both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection were used in data collection and a sample of 40 tour guides from Buhoma was chosen randomly, while 5 key informants from the Uganda Wildlife Authority were purposively sampled. Data was later analyzed using SPSS version 16. Data analyzed revealed that guides are assigned to perform tasks such as information giving, training members of the group or community about the customer care service, driving tourists to various areas, and promotion of cultural tourism around Buhoma. Further, the community guides at the Buhoma community possessed technical skills that included information-giving skills or communication skills; bird identification skills; driving skills; first aid skills; customer handling skills; and animal and plant identification skills. However, the guides lacked technical skills in languages and defensive driving. The study revealed that challenges faced by community tour guides included competition, poor road networks, language barriers, lack of technical schools, poverty in the rural community, and others, which can kill the reputation of guides if not handled well. Proposed strategies to address capacity gaps include the following: Based on these findings, the study recommended that all practicing and new entrant guides undergo mandatory basic training, as well as the establishment of technical institutions aimed at providing access to tour guiding training services.