Area Report - Maricar Donato

Maricar Donato - Area Representative for The Americas

I. History of the National Federation of Tourist Guides Association-USA
The NFTGA-USA was created in November 1998 in Washington, DC, when the Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, DC, invited representatives of all known local guide associations and Guilds from across the United States to come together to discuss the creation of a national guide organization. The organization decided to call itself The National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations-USA or NFTGA-USA. The collective association membership totals nearly 2,000 tourism professionals from across the nation. These guide associations have gathered under one umbrella organization to collectively promote the visibility, importance and understanding of professional tourist guides. 

II. Background:
(Source: Study of “Best Practices in Tour Guide Training, Testing, Licensing and Enforcement” April 2002) Guiding has been in existence, informally since the beginning of travel and an example would be the Grand European Tour. Many changes have occurred since then as guiding has taken on a more formal structure but it remains best known in the United States that guiding is a hobby put forth most frequently by women of means and retired professionals who love history or architecture. It has only been since the later part of the 20th Century that guides in the United States have sought to organize, set standards, develop training resources and create a credentialing system. The profession is young and its growth can be considered developmental, not unlike that found in the early stages of professions such as medicine, law, education, and economics. 

III. Training of Guides
Three issues seem to be important when looking at guide training programs:
Whether they are required, endorsed or ignored by the local government
How structured they are
Whether they are standardized
A look at Training Requirements:
There are 4 jurisdictions (Gettysburg Battlefield, San Antonio TX, Savannah, GA, and Charleston SC) that have training requirements and also have structure training programs in place. 
There are 5 jurisdictions (Boston, MA, San Francisco, CA, Chicago, IL, Washington DC and New York City) that have no training requirements and no required or expected training of guides that leads to licensing. Most jurisdictions do have very structured continuing education programs or programs of higher mastery. These programs are usually offered by the local tour guild or guide association.
The least structured Training Programs are Savannah and Charleston.
Training Programs with more structure: San Antonio, New Orleans, Chicago and New York City The most structured training programs: Gettysburg Battlefield, Washington DC.
In Boston and San Francisco there is no guide-training requirement imposed or endorsed by the city. There is no formal training offered by a local college or university. In both cities the local tour guide association or guild of tour guides provides substantial and very well organized training for their member guides.
Independent Schools offering Guide Training
There are two independent schools, the International Guide Academy in Denver, Colorado and the Institute of Tour Management Institute in San Francisco, California. Both schools focus mainly on training students to become tour managers, tour director but in the process general guide skills are presented and mastery expected.

How standardized are the training programs? 
All the structured training programs contacted reported an essential part of their training to be the establishment of a clear set of standards for guiding. It is on these standards that they base their training. Several cities have produced a guiding manual that focuses on city regulations that must be obeyed in their area, as well as some basic content information about the city.
Only 4 trainers of guides have been accredited by the World Federation of Tourist Guides Association and they are located in Washington, DC.
Continuing Education or Refresher Courses are available through the tour guide associations and guilds in all jurisdictions surveyed. It is required in San Antonio and Charleston. Washington DC’s Guild of Professional Tour Guides have very rigorous requirements and training for a mastery status.
Best Practices in Training Tour Guides
Tour guide training works best when the following occur: Training is based on clear and stated standards for guides and guiding. Training is formal, standardized and required for credentialing. Training is offered by a recognized educational institution. Training receives official government endorsement. Training includes emphasis on the practical and logistical aspects of guiding as well as emphasis on core knowledge.
Continuing education is required.

IV. Organization
Testing Tour Guides 
In all jurisdictions where “best practices” were surveyed, guides are required by some organization to pass a test to be credentialed as qualified to guide in that jurisdiction. There are two variables that seem to separate jurisdictions. The first variable focuses on the involvement of local government. There are those jurisdictions in which testing for mastery is required or endorsed by the local government while in other jurisdictions testing is generally ignored by the local government. The second variable focuses on the reason guides are tested. In some jurisdictions testing is administered strictly as a licensing/certification exam but in others it is the culmination of an organized training program.
6 jurisdictions (Washington, DC, Savannah, Charleston, New York City, New Orleans and Gettysburg Battlefield) designed their tests for the purpose of licensing.
1 jurisdiction has test that are the culmination of a training program officially endorsed by their jurisdiction. In addition there are 3 jurisdictions ( Boston, Chicago and San Francisco that offer testing as the culmination of an unofficially recognized training.
In Washington, DC, Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, New York City and at the Gettysburg Battlefield, testing is undertaken as the method of determining licensing or certification rather as the culmination of a training course. But each city does it differently.
Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have not city-required training or endorsed guide licensing. They do each have certification offered by their local tour guide associations or guilds.

Best Practices in Testing Tour Guides:
Testing of Tour Guides works best when the following occur:
Testing consists of written, oral and practical demonstrations
Testing reflects training in core knowledge and guiding skills and techniques
Testing is developed with input from guides, content experts and other tourism professionals
Testing is officially recognized and endorsed by the local government
Testing leads to licensing, certification or registration
Testing of tour guides is expected by the public at large.

V. Regulation
Licensing Guides.
Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, New York City, Washington DC Gettysburg Battlefield, San Antonio have governments that have endorsed a method for assuring the public that they have:
Recognized tour guides as important purveyors of information about their jurisdictions
Reviewed the pool of available tour guides and selected guides of quality
Given these guides permission to charge for their services within their jurisdiction.
The method of presenting these assurances to the public varies around the world. In some places it’s called licensing. In other places it’s called certification. An in still other places it’s referred to as registration. But in all the above jurisdictions there is government involvement.

Jurisdictions that officially license tour guides are Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, New York City Washington DC, and Gettysburg Battlefield.
Jurisdiction that don’t license guides but where credentialing is recognized and endorsed by the government is San Antonio.
Jurisdiction with Un-Official Certification only – San Francisco, Boston, Chicago.
Best Practices in Licensing Tour Guides
Licensing Tour Guides works best when the following occur:
Licensing is authorized, endorsed and recognized by the local government. It does not seem to matter whether it is called licensing, certification or registration.
Licensing assures the public that the bearer has received substantial, relevant training
Licensing is based on testing that assures the public the bearer has substantial relevant skills.
Licensing is part of a jurisdiction’s larger tourism/hospitality effort.
Licensing requires periodic renewal based on continued training.
Licensing is respected by the tourism community
Licensing of tour guides expected by the public