WFTGA News

Tour Escorts to get $14 Million in settlement of overtime and retirement plan claims

SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco law firm of Dacey & Sitkin today announced a major class action settlement in excess of $14 million compensating approximately 200 tour escorts for unpaid overtime under federal and California law and approximately 370 tour escorts for not being included in the retirement plans of the defendant Group Voyagers, Inc., the Colorado based seller of multi-day tour packages for bus tours. Group Voyagers historically treated tour escorts, who are located across the U.S., as administrative or professional employees who were exempt from overtime.

The employees had alleged that the majority of their duties included routine tasks, such as following the company mandated itinerary, assembling luggage, inspecting buses, checking tour members into hotels, offering commentary on the sites visited, and selling optional tour extensions, and that they did not hire, fire, or discipline other employees.

Under the settlement, which received final approval yesterday afternoon from Federal District Court Judge Susan Illston, the tour escorts will receive overtime compensation based on a 12.6 hour work day and payments based on 75% of the employer’s contribution to the retirement plans.

While tour escorts on these bus tours historically have been paid a flat daily wage of around $100, the average payment for California overtime class members will be over $100,000, with the highest payment exceeding $450,000. After 41⁄2 years of complex litigation, we’re delighted with the result. It is a major development for an industry that has historically failed to recognize overtime entitlements and other employee benefits for tour escorts,” said James Sitkin, Plaintiffs’ attorney with Dacey & Sitkin in San Francisco. Tour escorts, including from out of state, attended the final approval hearing and broke out in applause after the final approval hearing, some in tears.

Dacey & Sitkin also has recently settled a similar action against another major tour operator, Grand Circle Travel of Boston, and is proceeding with similar actions against the operators of Tauck Tours, Trafalgar Tour, Contiki Tours, Titan Tours, Saga Tours, and others.

The law firms of Davenport, Gerstner & McClure and Tierny Walden Watson assisted Dacey & Sitkin in the action against Group Voyagers.

Donna Primas
President

Chicago Tour-Guide Professionals Assn.
Check-out our website: www.tourguidesofchicago.com

Posted: 12/01/03

Announces new regulations for using licensed guides

Marta Cooper

CONSUMER AFFAIRS ANNOUNCES OUT-OF-TOWN TOUR COMPANIES NOW REQUIRED TO USE ONLY LICENSED TOUR GUIDES

DCA to List All Licensed Tour Guides Online, Giving Special Recognition to Guides with Exemplary Scores on New Licensing Exam

New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Gretchen

Dykstra and City Councilman and Consumer Affairs CommitteeChairman Philip

Reed, today announced out-of-town companies conducting paid tours within New York City must employ a tour guide licensed by the DCA. In addition be-ginning in April 2004, the DCA will begin listing all licensed tour guides online, giving special recognition to guides who pass the new licensing exam with a score of 120 or more. Last spring, the DCA instituted a new, comprehensive and challenging licensing exam for the City’s tour guides.

“All visitors to New York City deserve an accurate and colorful tour,” said DCA Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra. “The law requires that out-of-town compa-nies conducting tours within the City have to use a licensed guide who knows

the lay of the land. This ensures that millions of tourists who visit each year, will get both educational and fun tours and therefore will be more likely to come back.” “As tourists return in large numbers to the City, I commend the DCA for rec-ognizing the importance of out-of-town companies using licensed tour guides,” said Council Member Philip Reed. “The DCA has found a great way to balance giving credit to veteran New York City tour guides, who have superb knowl-edge of the city, as well as resolving the problem of out-of town tour guides. Either way, this will enhance the experience of people coming to visit New York, which is a good thing for everyone.” “New York City tour guides are an integral part of the City’s tourism industry, welcoming millions of visitors each year,” said Cristyne L.

Nicholas, president & CEO of NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism mar-keting organization. “By making sure every tour company employs a licensed guide further encourages the success of the City’s $21-billion tourism indus-try.”

“Having a listing online will make it much easier for companies to find good, licensed tour guides,” said Pete Pantuso, President and CEO of the American Bus Association. “What’s good for the tourists is always good for the tourism business.”

By law, all new tour guides must take an exam when applying for a license to test their knowledge of historic or public points of interest in and about the City. Licensed tour guides who pass the new licensing exam with an exemplary score of a 120 or higher will receive special recognition on the DCA web site, and will be part of an annual alert to NYC & Co. and national tour companies. Guides applying for a license for the first time must take the new test and pass with a score of 97 out of 150, reflecting the average grade of the first few hundred test takers. Veteran tour guides - any guide who was licensed before May 17, 2003 - will no longer be required to take the new licensing exam because of their extensive experience and successful passage of a previous exam. However, any veteran guide who chooses to take the new exam and receives a score of 120 or higher will be included among those who receive special commendation.

DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law, as well as other related City and State laws, at thousands of businesses throughout New York City. DCA licens-es more than 60,000 businesses in 55 different categories in New York.

City and educates both consumers and businesses alike through free commu-nity seminars, licensing forums, and other informational materials. To file a complaint or for more information, call 311 or go online at www.nyc.gov/consumers.

Posted: 12/01/03

Yossi Grau's Grave

Posted: 07/21/03

Turkish Colleagues have launched a new magazine: Crossroads

In order to increase the image of tourist guides we had decided to publish a very prestigious magazine. It is out now. Its name is Crossroads. It is a bilingual magazine (English and Turkish). It consists of 100 pages, high quality material, photos etc. The circulation is 30.000 copies. We mostly deliver it free of charge. It cost us more than 35.000 US Dollars. We got some advertisements to lower the cost.

I wish we could do a similar one for WFTGA.

If you would like to take a look at the electronic version of our magazine,
please click here. You can read it with your adobe acrobat reader.

Thanks,

Serif Yenen
President
TUREB-Federation of Turkish Tourist Guide Associations

Posted: 07/21/03

UNITED KINGDOM - Institute for Tourist Guiding launched

The Department of Trade and Industry, with the support of the Department of Culture, the English Tourism Council and the Wales Tourist Board has given its final approval for the establishment of the Institute of Tourist Guiding. The establishment of the Institute is considered by many inside and outside the profession to be the most important development in the tourist guiding sector since the introduction of the Blue Badge over fifty years ago.

Kim Howells, Minister for Tourism, who hosted the official reception in the Palace of Westminster, said: I welcome the creation of the Institute of Tourist Guiding. I am sure that its status will raise the profile of tourist guiding, give the profession a much higher standing and raise standards of tourist guide training across the country. The qualification structure for the entire profession will ensure uniform standards of course accreditation and examinations and encourage best practice.

Posted: 07/21/03

UGANDA - Successful Bird Guide Training

For many years, Uganda has suffered from the lack of recognised trained Bird Guides. This made Uganda an unpopular destination to many who would be interested in Birding. The Uganda Bird Guides Club, together with Nature Uganda and Uganda Breweries Ltd. Has been working on overcoming this long-time problem.

It all started in 2001, when a fund raising drive was started through Kampala on Birding Big Day. Over US$3,000 were raised. One of the two people who underwent a Training the Trainer course in South Africa was Herbert Byaruhanga, who was also instrumental in the Uganda Safari Guides Association joining WFTGA. Together with a colleague, he later trained site guides at Lutembe, Mabamba and the Heritage Trails of Buganda Kingdom. At the beginning of June 2002, after weeks of intensive training, eight new bird guides were awarded their certificates by the Chairman of Nature Uganda. Before gaining proper accreditation, the bird guides will be re-assessed by assessors from abroad.

The recognition of Bird Guides is seen by many as the first tremendous success of the Ugandan tourism industry in the effort to offer quality guiding. Many different experience-based itineraries are being designed to suit the birding desire of clients. For more information, please contact Nature Uganda at eanhs@imul.com, or the Uganda Bird Guides Club at ugandabirdguides@hotmail.com.

Posted: 07/21/03

ARGENTINA - Happy Hour brings together stakeholders

AGUITBA, the Tourist Guide Association of Buenos Aires, recently organised a Happy Hour for members of the tourism industry. For the first time in the history of the Association, this event brought together not only the guides but also other stakeholders in tourism, such as agencies, the representatives of the National Tourist Board as well as people from the City Tourist Board. More than one hundred people gathered in a new restaurant which offered the space, the pizza and the drinks free of charge. The guides used the opportunity to introduce their magazine and were happy that for the first time they had the chance to put the associations name on the cover of a magazine for tourists.

Posted: 07/21/03

Consumer Rights of Tourists at the International Level and the Role of Tourist Guides - By John J Downes

EMITT/TUREB
Congress at TUYAP Exhibition Center
4 April 2003
Consumer Rights of Tourists at the International Level and the Role of Tourist Guides
By John J Downes
Reader in International Travel Law,
University of Abertay Dundee
President of IFTTA
Introduction

“Ay, now I am in Arden; the more fool I. When I was at home I was in a better place; but travellers must be content”. But travellers have not been so content. There has been a steady rise in litigation in North America, Europe and Australasia in recent decades and South Africa has been experiencing it too. In the USA, Thomas Dickerson, New York judge and Travel Law writer, has written numerous articles with titles such as “Travel Abroad, Sue at Home”, “Going to a Convention or Reunion? Don’t Forget to Pack a Law Suit”, “Taking Your Travel Agent on a Trip to the Courthouse”. In Germany, travellers are provided with a leaflet entitled “Your Rights Go with You on Holiday”. Travel agents and tour operators might think that legislators and judges had it in for them; and they might be right.

In 1983, at the First International Congress on the Legal Aspects of Travel and Tourism, Dr Jose Fosman, my predecessor as President of IFTTA, gave a paper entitled ‘Don’t shoot the tour operator’. The gist of Dr Fosman’s paper was that consumer protectionism was getting out of hand and that it would become self-defeating in that it would lead to travel agents giving a much more reserved service, reluctant to say anything or give any advice to the consumer for fear that what they said would be taken down and used in evidence against them. The increased liability would inevitably lead to higher costs for the tour operator that, in turn, would be passed on to the consumer. Dr Fosman cited several recent cases in which the courts took a very pro-consumer stance in travel cases.

Posted: 04/04/03
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