Student guides well versed in foreign languages are being recruited here in an effort to help international tourists go around one of India's prettiest and planned cities.
The Chandigarh administration will appoint students who are studying different foreign languages such as French, German, Spanish and Russian.
"Every year we have thousands of tourists from counties like the United States, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Canada who come to visit Chandigarh. The number of tourists visiting Chandigarh is increasing with each passing year. Often there are tourists who do not speak English and this has led to various sorts of problems for them," Samwartak Singh, director of tourism, told IANS.
"Keeping this factor in mind we have decided to appoint students of foreign languages as tourist guides. Through this, students could easily earn money and also gain experience that will help them once they complete their course," said Singh.
According to official figures, 32,074 foreign tourists visited this city in 2008, a jump of 21 percent from the 26,567 in 2007.
The number of foreign tourists was 25,217 in 2006 and 23,284 in 2005. Apart from being one of the country's few planned cities, Chandigarh is also the gateway to many tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh. It is well connected to Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Punjab as well.
"Initially we will appoint only 20 tourist guides on our panel who can fluently speak at least one foreign language. Apart from this, we will prefer local youths and make sure that the guide is well informed about all the places in Chandigarh," Vinod Kalia, deputy director of tourism, told IANS.
He added: "A guide will represent Chandigarh to the outer world and his job will be a big responsibility. So before the appointment we will also see that he is well-mannered, polite and possesses the aptitude required to become a guide."
Kalia said that the new recruits will be paid according to their work and the expenses will be borne by the tourists. They will get Rs.500 for a day's work, Rs.300 for half a day and Rs.100 for an hour, he added.
Currently the tourism department has five tourist guides on its panel but none of them can speak a foreign language. Earlier there were 11 tourist guides but many left as the job did not guarantee them a regular income.
French Simon Couzins said: "It will be a good move as many times tourists have to face an assortment of problems due to the language barrier. This step will certainly encourage tourists from all over the world to visit this beautiful city designed by French architect Le Corbusier."
Last year, the administration here had launched a special police force to help tourists as also a bed and breakfast scheme.
"There are many unscrupulous tourist guides operating here with the sole motive of minting money from foreign travellers," Kalia warned. "We will put the names, addresses and mobile phone numbers of these registered tourist guides on the websites of the department so that tourists can contact them easily."