Between 2004 and 2012, Taiwan saw a surge in the number of applicants to take the examination to become tour guides; however, that number has continued to decline since its peak of more than 118,000 in 2012, Apple Daily reported.
This year, only 37,000 applicants registered to sit for the tour guide exam, the fourth lowest number since Taiwan began administering the exam.
The Ministry of Examination said that the average pass rate for those who will receive a probationary tour guide license is only 54.34%. The ministry added that in 2016, Taiwan had a total of 88,201 licensed tour guides including those with probationary licenses, with another 81,349 being licensed as tour leaders.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the number of licensed tour leaders in May 2017 totaled 53,412, with 38,626 tour guides. The ministry said, “Nearly half of those who passed examinations have not completed pre-service training.”
The Ministry of Examination stipulates that if an applicant does not begin business within three years of passing the exam, the license will be revoked. The declining number of tour guides is, therefore, not only because of the low pass rate for the exam, but also because some applicants have decided not to endeavor into the industry, particularly with declining numbers of visitors from mainland China who would typically join a tour.
In 2008, the ministry introduced tour guide exams for Thai nationals who could assist with the growing number of incoming tourists from Southeast Asia. Other languages were added to the exam in 2013. But thus far, there are only 117 Thai tour guides, 75 Vietnamese guides, 66 Indonesian guides, and 22 Malaysian guides.
According to Tourism Bureau statistics, there were more than 193,000 tourist arrivals from Vietnam and 195,000 from Thailand last year. There were a total of 5.7 million tourist arrivals last year, not including overseas Chinese.
Some, including Examination Yuan member Yang Ya-hui (楊雅惠) have recommended expanding the exam to include additional languages that are less common in the region. She noted that this could attract more new residents to take the exam.
Some are worried that with growing numbers of tourist arrivals from countries other than mainland China, Taiwan may face a shortage of qualified tour guides in the future and that the exam should be modified to increase the pass rate. However, the Ministry of Examination noted that the pass rate for tour guides taking the English, Japanese, and Chinese exams is higher than the overall average. The ministry said that it will evaluate the exam of speakers of other languages to ensure that it is adequate.
In 2015, before the sharp drop in mainland tourists to Taiwan, the island faced a tour bus driver shortage, claiming that it needed another 3000 drivers. More recently, drivers and tour agencies have lamented the shortage of tourists joining package tours around Taiwan. Even the new double-decker hop-on hop-off tour buses are suffering from low ridership.