Resolution in Sight for Underwater Tour Guide Debate

For several years a debate has raged about the registration of dive leaders as Underwater Tour Guides. The proponents of registration argue that definitions in the Tourism Act of 1993 require dive leaders to train and register as tour guides. Tour Guide training is not within the realm of standard dive leader courses, and is offered through separate service providers. At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe dive leaders are not Tour Guides, and that additional training and registration increases the costs of diving without adding benefits.
The debate reached the level where proponents of registration were pressuring authorities to arrest and prosecute dive leaders who are not Tour Guides. The authorities called a meeting of concerned parties at Umkomaas in February 2008, where the issues were discussed. At this meeting it was acknowledged that legal requirements were not clear, and that the input of the National Registrar of Tour Guides would be required. The National Registrar of Tour Guides, Dr J. Raputsoe, is the official at the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) responsible for overseeing Tour Guide registration. Dr Raputsoe kindly agreed to meet with various leaders from the diving community to discuss the Tour Guide issue.
The meeting took place on Monday 18 August in a very cordial atmosphere. Those present included the local representatives of training agencies SSI, PADI, ISDA and CMAS-ISA together with members of the interest group Underwater Africa. The representatives of TDI/SDI, NAUI, and IANTD were invited to the meeting, but were unable to attend due to other commitments. A discussion document was circulated to all invitees beforehand, and input incorporated into the discussion. During the meeting several important points were raised:
• DEAT acknowledged that the clause in the Tourism Act was not sufficiently precise to be used as the only determinant of an Underwater Tour Guide status. DEAT emphasised that despite the imprecise definition, the Department had an obligation to ensure that the expectations of tourists who signed up for guided experiences were fully realised. The parties agreed that a more detailed definition would be drawn up by the stakeholders of the scuba diving fraternity as a matter of urgency.

• DEAT accepted that the general agency view that the ISO standard for a Level Three diver ("Dive Leader") was a suitable qualification for dive leaders to obtain an Underwater Tour Guide status. It was agreed that a methodology had to be developed to ensure the most efficient recognition of the qualifications of the different agencies.
In order to progress matters, it was agreed that the following steps will be taken:
• Underwater Africa, along with CMAS-ISA, ISDA, SSI, TDI/SDI, PADI, NAUI and IANTD will urgently draw up a detailed definition for identifying those dive leaders who would be required to register as Underwater Tour Guides. Input for this document will be invited from all scuba diving training agencies, to include those that were not present at the meeting; other interest groups will also be requested to comment.

• Based on this document, the Registrar will accept interim registration from those dive leaders classed as Tour Guides.

• The training agencies will assist with this by confirming in writing to the Registrar their acceptance of the ISO standard. Diver leaders holding the necessary, current qualifications will be allowed interim registration.

• Registration is to be submitted via the Training Agency. Dive Leader must be an active member in good standing with his or her Training Agency in order to apply

• DEAT will facilitate a longer-term process to ensuring the recognition of the Level Three qualification with the minimum bureaucracy.

All parties agreed that the meeting was extremely valuable in settling a long-standing debate. Leadership divers can expect to see detailed communications on who needs to register, what the registration process is, if they then decide they qualify how to apply, this will come directly from their training agency as soon as matters have progressed.
Monty Guest
Chairman, Underwater Africa
"The CPR of Diving"
Conservation - Promotion - Representation
Cell: 082 456 1982
Fax: 0866 175 463
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Section 21 Registration Number: 2007/016660/08