Today, 21st February 2020 is the International Tourist Guide Day. This International Day has been celebrated by the Tour(ist) Guides all around the world since 1990, when it was created by the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations (WFTGA).
Do you think you know everything about the Tourist/Tour Guides? Let's see! I invite you to read this Blog post a bit more.
What's a Tourist Guide?
According to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) a Tourist Guide is a « person who guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of an area, which person normally possesses an area-specific qualification usually issued and/or recognized by the appropriate authority ».
Unfortunately, in the last years, Qualified Guides and visitors we are facing a wave of amateurs or charlatans who think that being a guide consists in memorizing a Wikipedia page and speaking in front of a group. Or even worse, it would consist in walking people around the city, no matter what you explain to them... These people have no qualification, no official recognition, no experience, no knowledge, and they work illegally.
Who's responsible for that? The governments who are trying to "Uberize" this beautiful profession, and the customers who buy this kind of services.
What are the risks of following a fake guide tour?
In most of the European countries guiding is still a regulated profession, as other jobs (lawyer, baker, dentist, architect...). In other countries and cities (as in Amsterdam), regulation is coming to prevent the mass and the bad quality tourism. Examples of ID's and Badges in Europe.
However, the market's door was opened to amateurs who work day after day for touring societies (often announcing services as free, but also asking for a rate), for Travel Agencies (against the law), River/Sea Cruise lines, Segway companies, Cycle-taxis, tuk-tuk, etc. In some cases, they are even exploited by misgiving companies.
If you want or going to follow a tour with the first type of amateur I mentioned above, check the risks below:
You will pay for fake/invented information
Storytellers often have no diploma in any specialty related to our profession (history, history of arts, tourism, languages,
archaeology...). Some of them decided to become a guide overnight after reading Wikipedia.
In the streets of Strasbourg you can hear some crazy comments from these unethical amateur "guides" such as:
- "All the bishops of France lived in Strasbourg". However, Strasbourg wasn't French until the 17th century;
- "The Strasbourg Cathedral has only 1 tower to point out the main entrance". Historians say that the second tower wasn't built due to three possible causes: lack of funding, the heavy weight of a 2nd tower or because Gothic was old-fashioned;
- "Kougelhopf cake can be made with strawberry or vanilla". The local cake called Kougelhopf has only two versions : the traditional sweet one (raisins and almonds) or the salty one (bacon). So far, only free tours invented vanilla Kougelhopf...
- Qualified Guides, we followed a specific training for several years at the university or in a vocational school, and we continue studying after that. We were also trained to speak to the groups, to adapt our speech and to guide people. In addition, we use the local archives, the newspapers and certified-sources of information to prepare our tours.
You are not in safety
- Storytellers are working illegally and sometimes for unethical companies. If you follow their tours, you are on your own in case of accident. If police approaches your free tour group, the amateur guide will always say that he's volunteering.
- Qualified Guides, we must protect our guests and that's why we subscribe professional insurances for it.
Fake guides don't pay tax
- Storytellers conceive our profession as a (full time) hobby. They often think they don't have to declare their guiding revenues. If you pay them, you will be contributing to tax evasion.
- Qualified Guides, we declare 100% of our earnings, because tour guiding is a job! We pay between 40-50% of them in tax in order to contribute to our society.
You will miss the musts of the cities
- Storytellers are not allowed to guide in the Monuments or Museums and, depending on the country, not even in the streets (ex. Italy). If they try to do it, your group may be stopped by the Tourist Police or a Security Guard.
- Qualified Guides can guide everywhere (except in some private foundations) and you won't miss the inside of the main monuments and museums of the city you are visiting.
To know the advantages of hiring a Qualified Guide, please read the following Blog post. You can also enjoy quality Walking Tours for less than €10 per person in most of the Tourist Information Centers proposing these services.