Research Article
Kabii Francis*
Corresponding Author: Kabii Francis, Tourism Department, Kenya Utalii College, Nairobi, Kenya
Received: 12 June 2020; Revised: 20 June 2020; Accepted: 23 June 2020 Available Online: 30 September 2020
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The main objective of the study was to investigate the effects of tour guides’ professional associations on the member’s performance. It examined the composition of tour guide membership and investigated member’s benefits and expectations from their associations. It finally examined the influence of these associations on the performance of members. Limited studies have been conducted in Kenya in this area a gap the study intends to fill. Findings indicated that the majority of respondents (79%) were members at least one association while 21% of members were not. This observation was significant (χ2= 169.976, df=2, P<0.001). Tour guide performance was dependent on whether one was a member of a professional association or not (χ2= 25.332, df=10, P<0.001) meaning that the associations influenced member’s performance. The finding showed that between 6. 6% and 11.8% of guides' performance was likely to have been influenced by a guide being a member of an association.It was noted that registering to an association increased performance by 64% (e-1.013=0.363) concluding that the tour guide’s performance was dependent on whether one was a member of a professional association or not and members performed better than a non-member. The majority (56%) agreed that there were some benefits of being a member of an association as compared to 25% who disagreed. Members expected their leaders to negotiate for better employment policies, better remuneration packages, working conditions, and even retirements benefits. The study recommends that all guides be registered as members of existing professional associations.


Keywords: Professional, Association Tour guides, Effect, Performance.


The purpose of the study was to establish the effect of tour guides' professional associations on member’s performance. It examined the composition of tour guide membership and investigated member’s benefits and expectations from their associations. It finally examined the influence of these associations on the performance of members. Limited studies have been conducted in Kenya in this area a gap the study intends to fill.

We note that most careers have an association that represents the interest of their members and the public. Members elect officials whose duties are to maintain oversight of the legitimate practice of the occupation, develop the  personality of members, and generate unity, friendship, and cooperation among members. Steel & Broersma (2018) acknowledges that members of these associations acquire useful professional knowledge, new practice tips, and updates on the profession. Continuing interaction with mutually supportive peers under a shared banner creates a stronger professional identity and, presumably, reinforces one’s sense of purpose and pride in one’s work (Azzolini, 2012). The professional association website and sponsored luncheons and training events also offer members opportunities to learn about the latest job openings, initiate rewarding personal and professional relationships, and keep one’s skillsets up to date (Fisher& Vilas, 2012). These associations have a code of ethics that their members follow reinforcing minimum academic and professional requirements for their members.

This was not the case for the tour guiding professional associations in Kenya which are fragmented and scattered all over the country. There was no umbrella body representing all members as most regions had registered association representing their member’s welfare. Examples of these regions are Nairobi, North Rift, and Mombasa, Malindi, Arabuko Sokoke forest, and Shimba hills. Western and Central Kenya had associations for forest and mountain guides as well as porters.

Memberships is voluntary and open to all practicing guides which are different from other professional associations which are very selective, and one must fulfil prerequisite requirements before being registered and licensed to practice. Existing associations were poorly funded relying only on member’s subscription and some monthly contributions. This limited their effectiveness in offering expected services to their members and the customers.

There were no policies for the formation and registration of these neither associations nor uniform criteria on minimum requirements to join these associations. There was no uniform defined code of ethics for members of these associations. Most associations did not have a clear mandate from their members while others lacked legal backing. There were no clear benefits for the members who in most cases were dissatisfied with the services offered by the association. This frustrated their members who expected more than the associations could not offer. This was the scenario that necessitated the study.



Theroles of a professional association in tour guiding

Understanding of tour guiding professionalism begins with understanding the basic concept of the profession. (Cogan, 1953) defined a profession as “a vocation whose practice is founded upon an understanding of the theoretical structure of some department of learning or science, upon the abilities accompanying such understanding.” Likewise, (Barber, 1963) has defined profession in terms of four essential behavioral attributes: (1) a high degree of generalized and systematic knowledge, (2) a primary orientation to community interest rather than to individual self-interest, (3) a high degree of self-control of behavior through codes of ethics, and (4) a system of rewards (monetary and honorary) which is primarily a set of symbols of work achievement.

The long-term viability and competitiveness of the tourism industry depends on the reliant on the service quality and professionalism of the personnel in the industry (Mak et al., 2011). Cousquer&Beames (2013) and Lamont, Kennelly&Weiler (2018) suggests that for a tour guides to offer quality services to their customers, a number of measures that are part of a quality assurance continuum needs to be considered. Others have suggested that the tour guide should go through a process of accreditation, professional certification, and licensing by the competent authorities before being allowed to practice (Kemboi& Jairus (2018). Ap & Wong (2001) says that a number of measures for enhancing the service professionalism in guiding should be setting standards for the profession, development of a code of conduct, formulation, and effective monitoring and evaluation systems and identify a clear career path that offers members professional development opportunities. This study also conquers that measures such as professional certification, licensing, training, and codes of conduct, should be used to improve tour guides’ performance in Kenya.

Also noted was that professional certification and licensing has been used in the travel the industry as a means to assist in improving and maintaining the professional standards of the guiding profession in many countries (Wheeler& Chisholm-Burns, 2018; Black & Ham, 2005; McDonnell, 2001; Pond, 1993). Some authors have recommended that to be effective, certification should be a voluntary process administered by associations or other professional organizations and should involve more qualitative standards acknowledged within a profession.

In Kenya, certification is required by law and granted by Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) to those guides who meet established qualifications (Kabii et al., 2018). The government tries to enforce that all guides meet minimum agreed academic and performance criteria before venturing into the guiding field with little success as you observer trained and unregistered guides operating during the high seasons and disappear during the low seasons some of who tarnish the image of the profession.

Registration of tour guides association has been reported in Hong Kong, Macau, United Kingdom and have shown to enhance the level of service quality and the professionalism of the guiding profession (Nyahunzvi&Njerekai, 2013). It is also regarded as highly critical in affecting tour guide performances (AP &Wong, 2001; Heung, 2008; Mak, Wong& Chang, 2010).

It is agreeable that training and follows agreed code of conduct is important in shaping the profession's ethos and practices Ananomo (2018) and Zheng& Lu (2018). Many Authors have identified training as an important quality assurance measure and is widely recognized as a critical means to enhance the service standard of the guiding profession (Mak et al., 2011; Black, Ham&Weiler, 2001; Weiler& Ham, 2002). In some cases, specialized training is particularly essential as tour guides need to perform many important roles (Black et al., 2001 and Lamont, Kennelly&Weiler,2018). Well trained and qualified tour guides are assets to a destination and are believed to have more benefits drawn from them thus enhancing customer satisfaction (Dioko&Unakul, 2005). In addition to formal and structured training, (Lugosi & Bray,2008) emphasize that destination culture is essential in facilitating informal learning and development of tour guides, particularly in the forms of social learning and experiential learning.


The study applied a mixture of descriptive and exploratory research designs and combined qualitative and quantitative research approaches. While on duty, most tour guides in Kenya are not stationed in any particular area and are always in motion traveling from one tourist circuit to another. In Kenya, there are six tourist circuits. These are; Nairobi circuit, Central Kenya circuit, Coastal circuit, Southern Circuit, Eastern circuit, North Rift circuit, South Rift circuit and the Western circuits.

This study targeted only four circuits due to the distribution of the respondents and their areas of specialty. The Western circuit and Coastal circuit were selected since they represented forest guides in Kakamega forest and Arabuko Sokoke forest, South Rift circuit represented guides in savannah areas, and finally, the Nairobi circuit which represented town guides. These circuits were purposefully selected.

The target the population was 1300 practicing tour guides who were registered by Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) by June 2016 and had renewed their license. The geographical cluster sampling method was used as it allowed respondents to be selected from different geographic tourist circuits in the country. The sample size for the quantitative data was 305 respondents from the target populations of 1300 members. To collect qualitative data, the study interviewed 25 city guides, 15 key informants, and 60 respondents in Focus Group Discussion making a total of 100 respondents.

For the Focus Group Discussions, the researcher used the officials of Kenya Professional Safari Guide Association (KPSGA), and East African Tour Driver Association (EATGA) to bring together members who took part in the discussion. The researcher conducted a pilot test on the questionnaire using purposefully selected respondents and their opinions were considered before distributing to other respondents. Test re-test reliability method was used to ascertain that the data collected from the questionnaire and the focus group discussions were reliable. Cronbach alpha was used to test the questionnaire. It was 0.972 which was considered adequate for the study.

Descriptive the analysis was used where data frequencies were generated and described. Cross-tabulation and logistic regression were also used. A total of 305 questionnaires were administered, 250 were completed and returned giving a response rate of 81%.



Findings on composition of tour guide membership

Findings indicated that 79% of respondents were members at least one association while 21% of respondents were not. This observation was significant (χ2= 169.976, df=2, P<0.001) meaning that most guides were members of an association. The majority (95%) of respondents were males as compared to the minority 5% who were females. The majority (87%) of the respondents were married as compared to only 13% were singles. The finding indicated that the majority (77%) of respondents had secondary school certificate as the highest level of education as compared to only16% of members who had a university as the highest level of education. The study observed that 56% of the members had a certificate in tour guiding as compared to 41 % who had a diploma and only 3% with a degree though not in tour guiding. About 36% of members had worked between 5 years to 10 years while 42% had worked from 10 years to 15 years with only 24 % who had more than 15 years. The majority (62%) were either in contract or self-employed while 38% were on permanent employment. For all associations, there were no clearly defined roles, nor a uniform code of ethics, employment, and recruitment policies. The career was fragmented and there was a need to put it in order (Table 1).

Members opinion on benefits from their associations

To examine whether there was any benefit enjoyed by members of these associations, respondents were given 10 opinion statements and their responses were rated using 5-point Likert scales; strongly agree. Agree, not sure, disagree, and strongly disagree. The majority (56%) agreed that there were some benefits as compared to 25% who disagreed. Others were noncommittal. Some of those interviewed said;

We pay a monthly subscription but there is no accountability on the way the funds are spent. I don’t see any benefit. I feel I lose my money. If these associations cannot advocate for better pay and benefits for the members, then I don’t need it’.

Other respondents said these associations were channels of reaping off member’s money through a monthly subscription fee. Others said that there was no set structure in managing these associations. Some (52%) said that the association assists members during the renewal of their licenses.

‘All the professional associations I know have a minimum academic and professional qualification. Ours should not be any different. On academic qualification for membership, there was a mixed feeling. Members with a certificate or diploma in guiding said minimum academic qualifications were necessary while those with over 50 years claimed they have acquired enough experience and should not be subjected to any academic exam but should apply only to the new entrants in the guiding career.

Let only those who are joining the industry be subjected to provide certificates and not those who have more than five years of experience’. We don’t have money to train ourselves. Even though we appreciate the role of training institution, a good number of us are not comfortable sitting for any exam but we would like such training, preferably free of charge and conducted during the low seasons.

Likewise, 80% of members suggested that there should be only one strong umbrella body at the national level and another regional level representing all counties that have tourism activities.  Examples of these regions were Nakuru, Mombasa, Nyeri, Malindi, Eldoret, and Kisumu same sentiments were reiterated at the FGDs where they proposed a two-tier level of associations. The upper tier to compose of the representative of regional associations while the lower tier be composed of all specialty guides such as mountain guides, forest guides cultural guides and marine guides.

 All these guides must be registered according to their area of specialization. some of those interviewed said:

“What can we borrow from the teachers and lawyer’s society of Kenya’s? Maybe that's why they are respected and have better bargaining power. Nobody takes us seriously and our employer uses the divide and rule approach. If we are divided, we have no bargaining power”.


The expectation of members from their associations

Respondents were asked to list three things they would like the association to do for them in order to have job satisfaction and better performance. This was an open-ended question where respondents listed various things.  Their responses were classified into two. Category one (internal) where they listed what could be achieved through the leadership of their association and category two (external) which listed issues that can be addressed by other stakeholders and the ministry of tourism.

Members expected their leaders to negotiate for better employment policies, better remuneration packages, working conditions, and even retirements benefits. They also said that they would like their association to be recognized by labor unions so that their members can benefit like other members of a trade union. This was not the case since their employer did not allow the guides professional association to be members of trade unions. Likewise, members expected the government to streamline the licensing procedure and the required documents. They wanted Tourist Service vehicles (TSV) to be handled differently from other Public Service Vehicles (PSV) (Table 2).

Categories of benefits given to tour guides

 To investigate benefits tour guides, get from their employers a series of questions were asked. Respondents were asked to indicate by yes or no whether they get some listed benefits from their employers. For those on self-employment, they were to indicate whether they get the same benefits from their job. These benefits are summarized in Table 3 and ranged from medical care, house allowance and insurance while on duty. A higher number (60%) of the respondents (χ2=9.818, f=1, P<0.001) did not have any retirement benefit as compared to 40% of those who had. Only 56% of the respondents had career development programs as compared to 44% who do not have.

The majority, (64%) of the respondents (χ2= 19.433, df=1, P<0.001) did not get any monthly house allowance while about 69% (χ2 =32.073, df=1, -=jnb,kP<0.001) were not given transport allowance while on duty. A minority (37%) of respondents got (χ2= 54.803, df=1, P<0.001) financial assistance from their employer while not working during the low seasons while the majority never get any assistance irrespective of whether they were members of an association or not.

From these findings,it was  noted that majority of guides did  not get most of the benefits given to the permanent employee irrespective whether they were members of an association. Their profession body did not agitate for these benefits which  among others were factors that determined the satisfaction level of guides. This puts their employers in a  helpless situation since they could not afford to employ all guides on fulltime bases. This finding was similar to that given by those interviewed.

Many companies could not afford to hire guides on a permanent basis due to low business volume. This meant that during the low season most of the guides were not working which forced them to look for alternative sources of income. This finding was the same as that from the focus group discussion where the guides said they are not motivated and are helpless during the low season. They could not meet their financial obligation and had to look other means of survival.


Influence of professional association membership on guides performance

Logistic regression was conducted to investigate the influence of Profession Association Membership on the performance of their members. The finding in Table 4 showed that between6. 6% and 11.8%of guides' performance was likely to have been influenced by a guide be who is a member of their association.

A p-value (sig) of less than 0.05 for block means that the block 1 model is a significant improvement to the block 0 models(Table 5).

From the model summary above, the study concluded that between 6.6% and 11.8% of the variation in guides performance can be explained by the model in block 1.

There is a strong enough relationship between professional association membership and guides performance. Registering in a professional association had some influence on the guide’s performance.  This is further supported by the wald test used to test the hypothesis that µ= 0. In the sig column, the p-values only better performance (Sig. =0.032) was below 0.05 level of significance.

This meant that being a member of an association increases the odds of performance by 64% (e-1.013=0.363) (Table 7).

A p-value (sig) of greater than 0.05 for block means that the block 1 model has insignificant improvement to the block 0 models(Table 8).

From the model summary of table 4.4, we can conclude that between 5.0% and 9.3% of the variation in tour guide performance can be explained by the model in block 1. This is lower than the model summary in table 4.2 where the variance explained Cox & Snell R Square and Nagelkerke R Square were 6.6% and 11.8%. In the sig column, the p-values and performance (Sig. =0.013) is below 0.05 level of significance. This means that once the other variables are controlled for, there is a strong relationship between performance and professional associations. Tour guide performance is 2.17 times likely to be influenced by joining a professional the association which takes care of member’s interests (table 4.4). This means that being a member of an association, e-1.219=0.296 increases the odds of performance by 70%.



Despite most guides being members of different tour guide association, they did not benefit much from membership and there no significant difference in the employment benefits are given to those who were members as compared to those who were not? There was nothing that motivated guides to join the association and most of them alleged that the association did not advocate for their interest. Most of them were of the opinion that their association were poorly managed and did not represent their interest, neither did the officials lobby for member’s welfare. To most guides, there are limited benefits of such membership. 

Tour guides associations in Kenya are fragmented making them difficult to be managed. All practicing guides should be members of a registered association before being authorized to practice in Kenya. Association of guides in different specialized activities such as marine guides, mountain guides, ornithologists, and those speaking different languages would be encouraged. The umbrella association should be a member of other international associations such as the World Tour Guide Association and others so that local guides can share experiences from guides from the rest of the world. These associations should have an agreed international and local code of conduct that protects the visitors, the environment, and the local community of the areas visited. This will promote sustainable tourism in the destination. Monitoring and evaluation of guides practice by their associations and other interested stakeholders such as Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) are recommended. The study noted that the monitoring and evaluation of guides were missing.

Although tour guide the performance was dependent on their membership to the existing association, there was no significant difference between tour guides who were members of the guiding association and those who were not on employment terms, salary, and other benefits.


Tour guiding Professional Associations should have self-regulation a mechanism that together with other responsible government representatives and stakeholders monitor performance and the code of conduct and practices of their members. There should be only one umbrella association with representation from other regions in the country.  The regions should include Nairobi, the Coastal region including Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu, Western Kenya, North Rift, and Central Kenya regions. Methods of recognizing and rewarding excellent performance should be established while those who break the code of ethics be reprimanded. By doing this, the performance of guides may be improved.

There is a need to have a clear mechanism where the performance of guides could be monitored and evaluated.  This study proposes that all guides operating in Kenya be registered as members of a guiding association.  The Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) should categorize and license guides according to their specialization. Such categories may be those doing mountain climbing, ornithologist, marine guide, cultural guides, and others. All guides should renew their license annually before being allowed to practice.

There should be a policy on tour guide training, recruitment, remuneration, minimum academic qualification before being licensed to operate. Although some associations had some code of ethics for their members, most guides were not bound by these guidelines. These associations do not have resources and manpower to achieve their objectives and often received little or no support from the Kenya Association of Tour operators (KATO), tour companies, or the government. Tour guide training, licensing and association membership should be guided by policies framework. There should be a mechanism of evaluation of the cultural guides who are the custodian of cultural knowledge and heritage.

Tourism Regulations Authority and other labor organizations should agree with the employers on guide’s minimum salary and social benefits since tour guiding Associations were powerless in negotiating for their members. This was because different tour companies have different employment terms and considerations. Some employers recognize certification and qualifications awarded by these associations while others don’t. Professional associations should establish contacts of guides in the country and encourage them to register as members so that they can discuss issues that affect them. They are also to promote and protect the interest of members and represent them in forums where policies that affect their interests are discussed. Associations have a duty of improving the quality of services offered by their members and organize training and capacity building for their members. This is not the case in Kenya since most of this association is not members of trade unions and labor movements. 

Associations heads should play an active role in maintaining the standards of the guiding service, promoting professionalism, and encouraging integrity and ethical conduct among members. Professional associations should have the authority to speak on behalf of the tour guides, represent their interests to the government, industry, and the community, and to protect their personal benefits from being invaded. They should endeavor to raise public, private and governmental awareness of the valuable roles played by their members. 

It was also observed that tour guides were not well organized. There were very many associations which made it difficult for any establishment to define who guides were and the best training programs for them. The government once again together with other stakeholders such as county governments should set a training budget for employees in tourism and hospitality within their counties. This may not only improve the performance of the guides but other employees in the tourism supply chain such as those working in museums, game lodges, along with the coastal beaches and other areas that attract tourists.

The study found that tour guiding professional associations were venerable, enduring, and perpetually metamorphosing as new ones are always sprouted.  Therefore, the established ones must adapt, innovate, merge with upcoming ones or altogether fade away.

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