Macau tourism industry has been prospering in recent years not only because of the thriving gaming industry but also thanks to Macau's cross-cultural gems which makes the city a unique travel destination. Visitors can see Macau's captivating beauty under the guidance of local tour guides. They can also hear Macau's stories and culture from their tour guides, which often make a memorable impression on them.
Experienced Japanese-speaking tour guide Nelson Hoi has worked in the field for 18 years. He went to Japan in 1991 to study Japanese language. After return to Macau, he worked in other fields until he became a part-time tour guide for a travel agency in 1994 and later a full-time tour guide in 1995. Over the past decade, Hoi walked through ups and downs in life while witnessing the rise and struggle of Macau tourism industry. With his passion and perseverance for work, he became a remarkable tour guide and won friendships at work.
Hoi expressed that the tour guide profession has transformed significantly with the travel industry development. When he first joined the field, he mainly escorted Japanese tour groups.
Many Japanese visitors were interested in visiting Hong Kong around the period of its handover to China. Most Japanese tour groups often paid a visit to Macau after their time in Hong Kong, leading to the prosperity of Japanese tour-group visits to Macau. After Hong Kong's return to China, the price for joining Japanese tour groups surged higher than other international tour groups, which resulted into a dramatic fall in the number of tour groups from Japan. There came a period when no Japanese tour groups visited Macau and local Japanese-speaking tour guides had to quit their job for other opportunities. At that time Hoi found an office job which enabled him to take an advanced training course for tour guides at night. The number of tour groups from Mainland rose subsequently after Macau's handover. Hoi then worked as a tour guide again for Mainland tour groups as he could speak Mandarin.
Hoi thus conducted tours for Mainland tour groups for several years in order to make a living. His passion for leading Japanese tour groups went on nevertheless. The number of visitors dropped drastically in the wake of the SARS epidemic outbreak in 2003. When the Historic Centre of Macau was inscribed on the UNESCO's World Heritage List, more Japanese visitors and tour groups travelled to Macau again. The recent rise of the MICE industry also brought many business tour groups from Japan to Macau, creating plenty opportunities for local tour guides. The number of business tour groups from Japan however dropped again after the earthquake hit northeast Japan.
Hoi persisted in working in the tourism sector even after so many ups and downs. His persistence came solely from his love for tour guiding and opportunities of getting along with different visitors. Before departure, his tour group members often took photos with him whereas many even became his good friends. They loved Macau for her colourful culture and delicacies with convenient transportation. Some even visited Macau ten times a year. During their visit in Macau, they would find Hoi and his family out for dinner too. Their friendship had flourished for many years.
Hoi loved leading Japanese tour groups especially because of Japanese people's kindness. He however exhorted the trade that tour guiding is part of the service industry and it is important to show visitors the best of Macau and provide great service for them no matter where they come from. When visitors have a lovely impression about Macau, they will choose to visit again.
Every job comes with joy and pain. Hoi encountered different challenges in the past as well. Sometimes due to bad weather, tour group members are forced to postpone their departure from Macau. Some of them would lose temper to their tour guide. It is essential for a tour guide to understand the group members' feelings and patiently explain the situation to them. It is important not to take it personally. After all, there is more happiness than pain at work. Things can eventually be resolved with a considerate heart. He was overjoyed when his tour group members gave positive feedbacks for his service.
Hoi pointed out that the working hours of tour guides are flexible but unstable. Sometimes he received calls at midnight for directions or assistance request from his group members for their passport loss. At other times he had to bring his group members to hospital or watch over them until they got better.
Due to unstable working hours, Hoi particularly treasured the quality time he spent with his family. During holidays, he would get along with his children or cook for them. His wife used to work as a tour guide as well and so understood his work nature. Their family relationship thus went well with deep understanding.
Nelson Hoi remarked that local tour guide associations have successfully fought for their benefits in recent years, but the issues of basic salary and other welfares are yet unresolved. Moreover, the tour guide profession is running short of young talents probably since many young people know little about this profession. Despite the related presentation at some higher-education seminars, not many young people join the tour-guide field in Macau nowadays. He hoped that the government can focus on the training of new tour guides in order to maintain the service quality of Macau tourism industry. As Hoi described, tour guiding is a fascinating career which can widen one's perspective and bestow great friendships upon one's life.