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Italy ratifies long-awaited changes to tourist guiding laws

( By Nelson Alcantara (Special to eTN).
Some argue that Italians make too many rules about everything but the ones that matter. This argument no longer holds true for one that has been a major complaint in tourism–tourist guiding.
Some argue that Italians make too many rules about everything but the ones that matter. This argument no longer holds true for one that has been a major complaint in tourism–tourist guiding.

Italian lawmakers have ratified changes to what has been termed as “ludicrous” practice using laws dating back to the ‘30s about tourist guiding in Italy. “Anyone
addressing a tourist had to be an ‘official’ guide, accredited by the local authority.
This has effectively meant that teachers, university lecturers, ministers and guides
from outside Italy were effectively gagged,” said the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA). “Many companies had to resort to using locally qualified guides as ‘silent escorts.’ These were paid to say nothing; their role was to act as a prophylactic against officialdom.”

It used to be that the law required guided groups of tourists to be accompanied by a specialist, locally-qualified guide, in the centre of most of its historic cities and at over 2,500 places throughout the country – even though most of these places are otherwise open to the public. If a tour leader escorted his or her group of people around the center of Florence, Perugia, Rome, Sienna, Venice or various other popular Italian tourist destinations, he or she risked arrest and an on the spot fine, according to ETOA.

With the Italian Senate on March 30, 2007 voting by 161 to 153 to bring in a range of laws liberalizing many aspects of the economy, changes to the archaic tourist guiding law is on the horizon.

ETOA welcomed Italy’s recent passage of laws liberalizing the long-contested practice of tourist guiding and escorting.

“This is tremendous news for the tourism industry,” said ETOA executive director Tom Jenkins. “We have campaigned against restrictive practices in Italy ever since the Association was established 18 years ago. It now looks as though clients will be free to listen to whomever they want.”

ETOA pointed out the essential points of the new legislation are as follows:
1) Guides and tour managers will no longer be required to obtain prior authorization if they carry a relevant form of professional qualification. If they have a degree in art
history, archaeology “or equivalent" (o titolo equipollente) they will be allowed to work as guides and should not be asked to take a qualifying exam or to be submitted to any other kind of test. However, they may have to prove that they speak a foreign
language and are familiar with the locality. Italy’s regions can promote noncompulsory certification systems for those who specialize in particular sites
or sectors, but with the specific purpose of improving the quality of services in relation to such sites or sectors.

2) For tour managing (rather than tourist guiding), anyone with a university degree in tourism “or equivalent", shall not be denied the right to perform tour manager
services; except where certain subject matter is not included in their course of study, in which case, further verification may be required.

3) All persons qualified as tour guides by the law of their own EU member country have the right to freely provide services even if they do not carry a formal

“While this does not mean the immediate end of restrictive guiding monopolies, because that will require the passage of local laws in Italy's twenty regions, it does mark the beginning of the end,” said ETOA.

ETOA also said it will “continue to issue certificates to bona fide tour guides and tour managers so they can convince the Italian authorities they are suitably qualified, should it be necessary.”

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