Area Report - Europe

Philip Cookson
Area Representative for Europe

In Europe we have member associations from 22 countries:
Armenia, Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Israel (comes under the European Eastern Mediterranean Area), Italy, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom.

Most of the countries have well established courses, but some of the Eastern European countries are suffering the results of the complete change of the government system and guide training seems to have fallen by the wayside. The courses cover the usual range of historical and cultural items you would expect, but there are interesting differences. FEG is working at setting up common standards for guide training throughout the EU.

I shall give you a few examples to show you the range of what is available.

Of course, you have to bear the relative wealth of the countries, but prices of the courses vary a lot, from Greece and Turkey where the courses are free and sponsored entirely by government to the UK where the Scottish course costs a total of €7.500,- . Length of time varies too from 6mths in Romania too 2,5 yrs in Greece.
In order to give you some idea of the relative cost of the courses I have worked out what the costs represent in terms of number of days guiding. 

Scotland – €6.900 + €600 for introductory course
London – €3.000 + €1.000 for exams
Iceland – €2.260
Austria – €2.200 – €2.500 (not conf)
Armenia – no official training.
Romania – €400 
Turkey – free
Greece – free

Let’s start with Greece where the intensity of the training reflects the wealth of historical and cultural sites and the importance attached to tourism.

The Greek course lasts 2,5 yrs. It is free of charge and is run by Ministry of Tourism, which has a dept dealing with training for tourist guides, hotel staff, travel agency staff and tour operators. So guides are seen very much as part of the whole tourist industry. 75% of the funds come from the European Union Fund for Training via Greek Government, 25% from Greek Ministry itself. There are 2 permanent schools; in Athens and Thessalonika. Other centres are sometimes opened according to demand. 

There are an amazing 1070 hours of lessons in school rooms, 110 hours of lectures in museums and sites, 260 hours of practice in situ. Let’s just think what this means: if an average classroom lecture lasts 2hrs, this translates as some 535 lectures, or about 4 lectures/wk over the 2,5 yr course, not allowing for any holidays, 2 practicals at sites /week and 1 lecture at a site/wk. Apart from the usual history, cultural subjects, practical study, etc – also 20 hours first aid, 10 hours on voice training, 20 hrs on psychology of tourist, and 30 hrs on tourism law and development. 

Qualification is national and allows you to guide throughout Greece. Attendance at the school is compulsory. Candidates must be EU nationals, or of Greek origin if non-EU, and fluent in Greek (modern, of course). School leaving certificate obtained at age 18 years is a requirement. 

Before being accepted, must take oral and written exams in at least 1 foreign language of your choice. If you pass this, you must then take further exams in Greek history and geography and attend an interview, before even getting on the course. 

England – Blue Badge London
Course costs 3.000 Euro, plus 1.000 Euro for exams. This total of €4.000,- represents about 16 full days guiding in a foreign language. There has been a training course for tourist guides in London for 50 years. The qualification, the Blue Badge, is awarded by the Institute of Tourist Guiding, a government authorised body. The ITG does not run courses, but rather it authorises course providers. The ITG sets the exams. The London course is run by a guide who set up her own training business. It lasts 1 year starting in Jan every year and is designed so that students can carry on working whilst studying. There are 2 eve lectures (of 2 hrs) per wk (ie. c.200 hrs lecture for whole course) plus practicals every Sat. Several hours home study per week are also required. There is a general knowledge test to get on course. Preference is given to candidates who have foreign languages and people who already have experience working in tourism related fields. It is interesting to not the different types of people studying: age range of 27 – 64 yrs, 51% male, 49% female, 25% do not have English as mother tongue, 82% have university education, 52% plan to guide in languages other than English. There are 25 trainers involved, all of the tutors and most visiting lecturers are qualified guides; they understand the needs of candidates. The course director tries to provide all students with a mentor, an established guide, to help them. Examiners are guides and representatives from tourism industry, eg tour operators and coach companies. The guide associations and the ITG organise a programme of lectures and visits for the purpose of ongoing education and development. In the case of the associations, this is a valuable source of income. Lots of the lecturers are guides offering their expertise in particular fields. They often offer their services free of charge to their association and the other guides pay a very small amount to attend. 

Course costs 2.260 Euro – this represents about 20 days’ guiding - and lasts 1 year. The Iceland Tourist Guide School was founded in 1976. In the past, the school has focused on coach tours. However, it is now taking account of the increasing demand for adventure and hiking guides. The possibilities of distance learning are also being explored. The curriculum is authorised by the Icelandic Ministry of Education. Candidates must be at least 21, and have secondary education certificate or appropriate work experience, attend an interview and sit a language proficiency test. 

Students are eligible for a student loan from government like other tertiary-level students. Course includes 444 contact hours. Classes are usually 17:30 to 22:00 on 3 eves/wk over 26 weeks in total. Every 2nd Saturday there is a field trip and also a six-day field trip around Iceland. Field trips are compulsory and the overall attendance in the course must exceed 80%. 

The school capitalises on the professional knowledge of about 50 individuals in any given year. Further, there is a wide range of guest lecturers from the industry who offer their professional knowledge and advice. There is a high level of interest in the training programme as a direct result of satisfied tour operators who demand their tourist guides graduate from the programme. Reinforcing this demand is a wage agreement whereby tour operators commit to hire qualified tourist guides. This agreement is very important as in Iceland no law protects the guiding profession. To date the school has trained 700 guides, of whom 500 are members of the association. At present, there are fifty students. 

In Vienna there are 2 courses, one 750 hrs, the other 900 hrs (over 1,5 and 2 yrs). I couldn’t get exact figures of the current costs, but it is round about 2.600 Euro, which represents about 10 days guiding. The qualification is nationwide and guides who take the course in other cities (where the courses may be as short as 300 hrs) are still entitled to guide in Vienna. Lectures are 3 x 3 hrs per week and every Sat there is practical training. Some of the trainers are professional educators, some are guides. The examination board consists of 4 people, at least 2 of whom must be guides. 

The course is full time for one year and is run by Roskilde University. I couldn’t find out what it costs. It is divided into two modules. The first part covers lecturers on art, history, geog, society and, interestingly, use of research materials. This is followed by a written exam, which students have to pass before being allowed to move on to the 2nd part and it is only now that they start to received practical training in the presentation of Denmark and planning of tours. In the exams students have to demonstrate ability and fluency in Danish and in one self-selected foreign language. The examiners represent various branches of tourism: tour operators, tourist board representatives, coach drivers – very interestingly - I wonder how many guides would like to be examined by a coach driver? – and qualified guides. 

Training is free and lasts 7 months including 240 hours of theoretical training. Course is under the control of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism which funds the course. Ongoing professional training (sometimes called “continuing professional development”) is compulsory. By law each guide has to re-register for his license (known as his “visa”) each year which means taking part in a minimum of 3 seminars per year. 

These seminars are offered by TUREB, the national guides’ association and cover a wide range of subjects which are suggested by the tourist guides themselves as a result of surveys conducted throughout the year. Topics vary from specialised historical subjects to the Art of Effective Speaking and Body Language and Turkey-EU Relationships. 

There are also Certificate Programmes allowing guides to offer speciality tours; these are tailored to meet the changing demands of the tourism industry, eg the Gallipoli Campaign (ANZAC Tours), Biblical Tours in Anatolia, Jewish Heritage, Ecotourism, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great. There are also conferences and lectures to provide the tourist guides with diverse and comprehensive information. These are organised by TUREB and especially in the winter there is at least one activity almost EVERY DAY. The speakers are foreign experts and university lecturers. TUREB has also organised study tours within and outside Turkey, eg Greece, Syria and Troy.

Course lasts 2 years. The STGA accredits courses. The current training provider is the University of Edinburgh. Courses are controlled and approved by the STGA Board of Directors. There are 753 contact hours and students are expected to complete c. 320 hrs of home study. There are no specific entry qualifications, but candidates are expected to have at least 2 recognised and verifiable qualifications or skills appropriate to guiding: degree, diploma, work experience in relevant field, outdoor activity qualification or foreign language. They must also have some basic IT skills. Applicants are invited to a selection interview followed by an introductory short course if successful. 

The candidate then qualifies for student membership of the STGA. The training involves 2 years of part-time study including web-based distance learning. There are regular assessments during the course and the final membership examinations last four days. 
The course fee for the Introductory Course is 600 Euro, the main course costs 6.900 Euro and is payable in instalments. 

The total fee of 7.500 Euro represents about 36 days’ guiding in a foreign language: At present, there is no official training for guides in Armenia. Despite this, the authorities want to start licensing guides this year. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the guides underwent training organised by Intourist (the State Tourism Organisation) and were supposed to go through a special upgrading courses once in 2 or 3 years. 

After the collapse of the USSR, the system of TG training collapsed too. 
The increase in the number of foreign tourists has made the authorities realise that some kind of licensing is needed, which is quite a realisation in itself since some of us come from countries where licensing of tourist guides would be anathema and rests I suppose on the residual Soviet culture of making sure things are licensed and have official stamps, etc. 

Thus in their haste, and ignorance of what is really need, I hear that the authorities issued a decree on TG licensing and devised a list of 100 questions which our Armenian colleagues describe as awful! The Armenian Association is offering training for new guides, but a lot of operators are not even aware that they need a trained guide and will take on anyone who claims to speak another language. 

There is an Institute for training guides. It was authorized by the Ministry of Tourism, but this no longer exists. Nevertheless, all Romanian guides have to be certified by this Institute, although the Romanian Association (ICA, pronounced “eetsa”) tells me that the training the Institute provides is nowhere near adequate. The course costs 400 Euro,lasts 6 months and covers very general information, mostly theory and offers very little opportunities to practice skills. The ICA is lobbying for change and already organises ongoing training and development of skills, but it is very small with only 7 members and is trying to develop the skills of other likely future guides. I don’t have any details of the fees which the Romanian guides charge, so can’t give you any idea how much the course fee represents in terms of days’ guiding. There is no agreement in Romania on fees and although it is officially illegal to guide without a licence, it is in practice never policed. 

A little about fees might prove useful.

Most guides are self-employed and are responsible for their own income tax and social security payments, but this is not by any means the case everywhere. In Turkey and Iceland some are self-employed, some are employees. In Greece all tourist guides are employees and therefore have their tax and social security deducted by the employer. Being an employee of course has the advantage of receiving sickness benefit. Most guides don’t get paid if they can’t go to work. 

The guides in Western Europe charge c. 250 Euros for a full day (9 hrs, inc lunch break) in a foreign language, but there are some interesting differences in the way we approach our fees. Most of the associations provide guide booking on their website, either via the association’s office or by linking in to a catalogue of members where each guide can have a picture and write a bit about themselves and deal with bookings direct. 

The Norwegian Association counts 120 members and was established in 1957. They charge €243 for full day, but have a supplement of €40/€62 for “special interest” tours. 

In Austria, the Salzburg guides vary their charges according to the type of tour they are doing, eg a walking tour in the city or a coach tour outside. They charge €246,- for a full day coach trip, but the prices quoted are for cash. If the client wants to pay by any other method, there is an administration fee of €15,-. Conditions specifically state that waiting time is included in the time requested.
The Vienna guides charge according to number of passengers and number of languages. 
In Austria guides have to pay VAT at 20%. Prices include the tax. VAT has to be paid 4 times p.a. Guides are self-employed so have to pay their own income tax and social security. Guides are protected by Austrian law – only qualified guides can work. 

Guides can be either self-employed or employed. – pay own tax and insurance or have it deducted at source. It is illegal to guide without a qualification. 
Recommended fees are discussed between Guides’ Assoc, tour operators and are approved by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism:
The fee for a full day is €51 in cities, €83 for excursions into the countryside.
TUREB has an on-line catalogue enabling clients to contact guides. Each guide pays TUREB a one-off fee of €16. This income does not cover the costs of the website, but TUREB subsidises the rest. TUREB has just produced its catalogue in book form, but not many guides showed any interest; only 450 out of the c. 9.000 guides in the country. 

Fees are strictly regulated and decided each year by agreement between each of the Associations and each local Tour Operators’ Association. This means 6 agreements for the 6 associations in Greece – totalling c.2.000 guides - in the whole country. This is signed by the employers and employees. The guides are employees (not self-employed as in most other countries), although they are paid per day, not per month. These fees are minimum fees, so in theory the guide can ask as much as they like above this, provided they get it, but the employer is not allowed to pay less than the minimum. This would be illegal and the guide could report the company to the Labour Inspectors. 3% tax and 16% social security are deducted from fees. Compare this to the 38% tax which Icelanders have to pay! 

An average price in Greece would be €130 for a full day of 8 hrs, but overtime, which is charged at €12/hr is very important in Greece since they are lots of tours of 10 -12 hours/day for which the guides are paid €170 – 180/day. Round tours including overnights in hotels are charged at the same rate as a 12 hr day, €180/day. 

SUNDAYS and public holidays are +75% of normal fee!
50% supplement for 2 languages.
Guides may have to pay extra income tax in line with very complicated calculations based on all kinds of things like if you have 2-3 cars, rent or own your house, or how much your partner earns. On the other hand, if your income is less than €12,000 p.a., you can get a refund. 

Although there are some employed guides, their number is very small: only 10 who are on fixed monthly contracts. 
Icelandic guides have to pay VAT (24.5%), but the tour operators and transport companies are exempt from VAT, so they do not like paying it to the guides.
Guide fees are paid by the hour and there are 4 wage brackets according to experience. Highest bracket is €14/hr during the day, €18/hr early mornings, evenings and, importantly, weekends.
There is a wage agreement with the employers made for 2 – 4 years at a time.
Guides feel that their salary is very low. If you earn the highest hourly rate and work a full day, you earn 112 Euro. In Iceland a 0,5 litre Coca Cola costs almost €2 and a Big Mac €10. Public holidays, of which there are 11 p.a, are charged double.

There is no official fee negotiated within the industry.
In APTG guides agree amongst themselves not to charge less than a certain minimum fee which they vote on every year.
The fee for a full day in a foreign language is: €250. There is a 50% supplement for a double decker – with the appropriate number of passengers, not if there are only a few pax and a charge is made for lunch if not included with group. This is €12.
Like in so many other countries there are supplements for public holidays, large groups, or tours in more than one language. 

In the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides, also a London based Association, but with members in other parts of London too, voting on fee increases also takes place, but the fees are “recommended”.
Guides do not pay VAT. VAT is chargeable on earnings above a certain amount. Can’t think what it is now, but it is not the sort of amount guides get anywhere near! 

Both associations provide third party insurance for members.
Although England is not a regulated country, the guides have managed to negotiate agreements with several of the main sites whereby only BBG guides are allowed to guide there. 

In Scotland there are no official fees either, but STGA recommends minimum fees of €186 for full day in foreign language. 

We do not have any French associations in the WFTGA, so I have not been able to confirm following information, but pass it on to you as it is so interesting. I have heard from French guides, that they are all considered to be employees, thus have tax and social security deducted at source, BUT this entitles them to unemployment benefit. In France, unemployment benefit is based on how much you have earned over the period of the previous 6 months. So, guides who have earned more are entitled to more unemployment benefit if they do not have work in the off-season. 

Lastly a huge success story! In Denmark there is a wage agreement with the tour operators and coach companies, and the Danish association has managed to negotiate an increase of 40% in fees! On their website the fee shown for a full day is €290 with a 25% supplement for public holidays, and for Sundays too! I assume that these fees are the new ones. Interestingly, the Danish guides also suggest that there be a charge for preparation for a particularly unusual tour by negotiation with the tour operator. 

I hope you have enjoyed this comparative survey of training and working conditions in Europe. 

I would like to thank Efi Kalambouki, Johan Szegoe, Serif Yenen, Sally Empson, Ros Newlands and Stefan Helgi Valsson for their contributions. 

Philip Cookson