The Federation of European Tourist Guide Associations (FEG) is outraged over the European Tour Operator Association’s (ETOA) decision to produce its own pan-European ID-badge for anyone who guides tourists — seemingly to circumvent the need for area-specific professional qualification – by using the non-existing term “Tour Guide” for these persons.
A place specific professional qualification is needed to ensure a high level of service quality in the tourism industry and exists in countries such as Austria, France, Italy, and Spain to name but a few.
The main objective of this proposed pan-European ID “Tour Guide” card scheme, according to ETOA, is to support the freedom of those who deliver cultural commentary to tourists in public places.
ETOA says the card is of use to those individuals who are established in an EU country where tour guiding is not a regulated profession (such as Germany or the UK) who intend to provide professional services on a temporary basis in a country where the activity is regulated (such as Italy or Spain).
FEG objects to ETOA’s careless use of professional terms. FEG points out that already there are over 40,000 qualified professional tourist guides in Europe with their official national ID badges.
What sets “tourist guides” apart from other tourism professionals is that they’re approved by a local authority. Tour managers, for example, do not need a job specific qualification to ply their trade.
Several countries in Europe and elsewhere recognize the importance of service quality in the tourism industry, i.e., tourist guides. In those countries, legislation prevents tour managers from masquerading as professional tourist guides.
“People are interested in being trained to the European Standard EN 15565 and look to achieve professional qualifications where they want to guide. FEG recognizes how vital qualifications are within any occupation and urges ETOA to embrace this, rather than develop this rogue [ID] scheme,” said FEG president, Carlos Ortega.
FEG views ETOA’s pan-European ID scheme for tour managers as an attempt to sidestep place specific requirements for professional training to the overall detriment of service quality in the tourism industry.
The absence of quality standards and place specific education of tourist guides reflects a nation’s interest in its own culture. “Even in countries or regions where the tourist guide profession is not regulated, the interpretation of culture is treated with equal seriousness,” said Ortega.