The tourism authorities in Croatia had expressed concern that unqualified and untrained “guides” were operating in the cruise ports and other heritage sites. The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) was invited to give its opinion on the subject at a workshop on tour guiding organized by the Croatian Chamber of Economy in Zagreb.
In view of Croatia’s future membership of the EU, the aim of the workshop was to discuss initiatives on standards, training, qualification and regulation of tourist guides across the European Union, and to present examples of best practice. Vlasta Klarić of the Croatian Chamber of Economy hailed the workshop a success, stating that “the exchange of experiences opened new communication channels, created a new network of knowledge and opened a way to sustainability of the cultural diversity and richness of European identities.”
Taking part in the full-day workshop were tourist guides, representatives of professional associations of guides, representatives of Croatia’s Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports and ETOA, represented by Nick Greenfield. “We recognize the importance of locally qualified guides to escorted tours in Europe. On the whole they add to the experience of our consumers,” he said.
ETOA recommended that local guides should be nurtured, but restrictive monopolies have to be avoided. “Local laws protecting guides and guiding invariably lead to anti-competitive situations that protect mediocrity.
“As a rule, Europe is a liberal and free area for tourism and tourism services with a multiplicity of guiding options. But, occasionally, there can be found circumstances where university professors are prevented from lecturing, ministers cannot address their congregations and guides from EU member states are threatened with prosecution. Why? Because local guiding laws prevent tourists from choosing whom they wish to listen to, and whose services may be offered. Even families are stopped from talking to one another at the Trevi fountain.”
In Italy, regulations, practice and enforcement has conflicted with European law, and difficulties persist. Dino Costanza, a Rome lawyer, cautioned Croatia that Italy’s system of regulating tourist guides was not the best to follow. He explained that the profession was bogged down with too many regulations, rules and by-laws. In Italy the ‘professions’ of tourist guide and tour manager were regulated at national and regional levels. “A lack of coordination between the central administration and the local authorities affects the system,” he said. “According to an EC directive on professional qualifications, tourist guides should be free to operate in Italy under the EU’s principle of the freedom to provide services. But due to a lack of a common approach from the central and local administrations, the objective of the Directive has not been reached in the complex tourism sector.”
Marina Kristicevic, president of the Dubrovnik Tourist Guides Association, said “Our skill and quality can make or break a visitor site’s reputation,” said Ms. Kristicevic. “We provide regular feedback to the site administration and we help to create experiences and memories. We promote our cultural and natural heritage and the non-material heritage continues to live in our explanations. We follow recent archaeological excavations and discoveries and the changes in the political situation as well.”
“You should concentrate on the quality of your local guides,” said Nick Greenfield.” The best way to do this is to open up your cities to competition to ensure standards are kept high as customers seek best quality and best value. There are a wide variety of guiding services offered to tourists, of which locally qualified guides are but one. Freedom to provide services is always in the customers’ interest.”
Source: European Tour Operators Association