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Tour Guides: status and accreditation


Activity is focused on ensuring there is proper market access for tour guides in Europe. The personal service they provide is one of the most valued features of escorted group travel. To retain its appeal it is essential that the market for guiding develops to suit both consumer preference and the professional mobility of tour guides throughout the EU. The value of area-specific qualifications remains but they are neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure visitors of an enjoyable experience. Free market access and innovation in the field of guiding is essential.  

Group tourists from all over the world visit Europe and expect to receive cultural information in the language of their choosing. There are not enough individuals in Europe who speak some languages to a sufficient standard. The phenomenon of Brazilians expected to accept tours offered in Spanish due to limited numbers of Portuguese speakers is all-too-familiar and does a disservice both to Brazil as an origin market and Europe as a culturally diverse continent. Asian language competence is also uncommon, and there are reports that market access is problematic for prospective new entrants. Tour guides accompanying incoming groups have an uncertain status and their freedom to provide services is impeded.  

The practice in Italy of hiring a ‘guida muta’ (silent guide) illustrates market malfunction: a locally-licensed guide, not required to deliver any information, who is hired to provide regulatory cover for the tour guide who shares a mother tongue with the group. This practice achieves its most protectionist pitch when a surcharge is made for the competence of the ‘guida muta’ in the foreign language in question. To address these and other issues, ETOA has focused its attention on EU regulation that is intended to support cross-border market access, and continues to draw malpractice to official attention.  
Going by the proposed replacement for the professional qualifications directive [see ETOA’s policy statement on PQD] we cannot expect much improvement at an EU level. We think it is vital that there is a move away from knowledge-based regulation in this area. The standard and range of guiding services in non-regulating countries is high; de-regulation elsewhere is overdue.

ETOA maintains a legal helpline to support operators. As market access in regulated countries is facilitated by the possession of a ‘sector-specific’ qualification, ETOA is developing a related certificate of competence.


1. Regulatory reform, focusing on the Professional Qualifications Directive
2. Wider market access for well-suited individuals
3. Development of guiding services, including broader offer
4. Awareness of market abuse and commensurate action
5. Bring a skills-based certificate of competence to market


1. Stakeholder survey and consultation
2. EC and EP lobbying
3. Consumer survey (in autumn 2012) of tour guide and local guide services
4. Continued discussion with potential awarding bodies for tour guide qualification (CCTG)
5. Verification of non-EU guides’ status

How ETOA members get involved

1. ETOA guiding working group
2. Involvement with development of competences and related qualification
3. Report abuse and interference

Further information and commentary

See policy documents