Tour guides play a key role in the tourism industry: they are the creators of a tourist’s experiences. Besides passion and knowledge, being a great tour guide is not easy and it takes time to hone that particular skillset.
For Arsim Rexhepi, founder of Balkan Destination, professional tour guides are the lifeblood of his business and of the tourism industry in Kosovo. “All tour operators in Kosovo should provide highly professional services, and work based on the industry rules,” he says. Arsim says that creating memorable experiences is the way to make tourists come back again.
Tour guides in Kosovo, most of whom are freelancers, received the harshest blow by the pandemic that brought the entire tourism industry worldwide to a near complete halt. While waiting to resume business, Balkan Destination began planning and preparing for the future. Since a large portion of tourists in Kosovo come from German-speaking countries, Arsim decided to train new tour guides for this specific segment, to be fully ready when travel for tourism purposes to Kosovo resumes.
“The lack of local guides who speak German is an impediment to meet the demand of German-speaking tourists,” says Arsim. The six-day training program that he and his associates designed aims to develop a growing pool of tour guides who not only have great communication skills in German, but also are qualified professionals to give tourists the best experience and memories from Kosovo.
Ndriçim Smërqaku used to enjoy being a guide for his family and friends. Presented with the opportunity to turn his hobby into a gainful activity, he joined the training “because I know this is the right occupation for me, and the training was a great opportunity to learn how to be a professional tour guide.”
The training was delivered to a group of 13 young professionals of diverse backgrounds, who all share a passion for tour guiding. Both the theory and practical part of the training prepared the future tour guides how to deal with every aspect of guiding groups: logistics, attraction description, techniques to handle groups of different sizes, or manage unexpected situations. Above all, the group was trained on safe practices of guiding that will be relevant post-pandemic.
When she was a student, Flaka Ramadani had lots of international friends and on many occassions, she was their tour guide around Kosovo. “That is when I realized how important it is to give a proper presentation of one’s homeland and that is why I decided to join, to give my contribution in promoting Kosovo, a country that has so much to show to the world and is still little known,” says Flaka, now a German language teacher.
Besfort Kruma serves for the Kosovo Security Forces, and part of his duties are to accompany foreign delegations. “The part of the training on our culture and tradition was meaningful, and we had the chance to visit the top attractions,” he says. Besfort expects that this new experience will be useful with his new venture: a company that will provide team building and recreational activities for adults and children.
Balkan Destination delivers tour guide training programs every year. However, this year’s training for German-speaking guide was special, as the participants were trained for both city and mountain guides. To deliver the full program, Balkan Destination was supported by Promoting Private Sector Employment, a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation project, which facilitates private sector activities to improve Kosovo’s tourism offer.