Ginevra Niccolini Serragli is the founder of Italian Excellence. In this article she tells us how she became a tourist guide in Hong Kong.
You cannot work in Hong Kong with the visa you get upon arrival. If you wish to work, you have three possibilities:
- you arrive in Hong Kong with a working visa issued before entering the country (this is the case of people sent by international companies, or invited to Hong Kong to work)
- you find a “visa sponsor” who declares he cannot find locally someone with your same expertise. Your visa sponsor will help with papers and procedures
- you have a “dependent visa”, i.e., your visa is issued in the same file of your working husband (or wife)
The latter involves the production of a high number of documents, from marriage to birth certificates, school enrolment certificates, and even a picture of the whole family to prove that the familiar group actually exists. You have to have and to produce everything you are asked. It is a long and tortuous path. The good news is the dependent visa allows you to work with no restrictions.
That’s the reason why I immediately opened my company, Italian Excellence, with the intention to work in multiple fields, including in- and out-bound tourism.
Hong Kong has a very strict and protective legislation for travel agencies.
In order to work as a tourist guide, you must deposit a minimum capital (around 50,000 euros), you must have a space to use as an office (not a room in a co-working space), which in the city with the highest rents in the world could be a problem, and hire at least one local person with a two-years proven experience in the field.
I spent a couple of years observing the market and trying to understand its dynamics. I realized Western tourists, who just stop over on their way to other destinations, underestimate Hong Kong. Local guides standards are dictated by Chinese tourism, and this does not give the right value to a city that has much to offer.
Becoming a tourist guide in Hong Kong is all but easy. To be admitted to the exam, you have to go through a severe and long procedure. You can become a tourist guide only if you have a university degree (for foreigners this equals a master degree), which must be provided in its original certification. Other requirements are:
- at least three years of proven working experience in the field
- a certification by a travel agency stating that the applicant has worked for them in the last two years
- a first-aid certificate issued by a local authority
If all prerequisites are satisfied, you can only apply for the “not English not Chinese speaking” section.
Upon approval of your application, you are provided with the material to prepare the exam, and asked to chose in which language you will give it. You will have to pay for an official interpreter of the Travel Industry Council. The exam is complicated because it requires a good knowledge of the legislation of the different offices and departments that deal with tourism locally.
Once I obtained the much longed-for “tour guide pass”, I spread the voice as much as possible locally. My network, which I had previously built with other activities of my company, is made up of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Consulate, the Italian Women’s Association in HK, and other expats groups.
Before becoming a tourist guide, I wrote several articles for an Italian monthly magazine in a column called “Go East”, where I talked about daily life in my host city; I now collaborate with different online platforms that deal with Eastern travels.
Word of mouth has been and still is of basic importance, as is the on-going support of the different travel agencies I collaborate with.
Ginevra Niccolini Serragli