Ever wonder what level of education or qualification a typical Tourist Guide has? Turns out, it’s a lot more than most people think.
Guiding is a profession that requires training, certification and licensing in most countries. In Europe, a huge majority of tourist guides speak several languages, and are professionally trained archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, interpreters, or professors. In the UK, many are barristers or art historians. Members of the Association Professionnelle des Guides Touristique in Montreal are doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, meeting planners, interpreters, administrators, journalists, designers, architects, engineers, authors, accountants, poets, and more. In Egypt, many guides are Egyptologists, which requires up to eight years worth of education in order to earn a PhD in the highly specialized subject.
Tourist Guides are ambassadors for their regions – deeply knowledgeable specialists who share their expertise and interpretation of the area’s culture, history and heritage with global visitors. Guides typically hold area-specific qualifications issued only after passing detailed theoretical and practical examinations approved by the region’s Ministry of Tourism or similar authority. Many guides are fluent in multiple languages, making it easy for travelers to absorb the fascinating historical detail in their native tongue.
Here are just a few examples of what’s required to become a licensed guide in some popular destinations:
History, geography and geology, agriculture and countryside, law, English literature, visual and performing arts, monarchy, government, tourism, sport, industry and commerce, finance, various galleries and museums in London, religion, architecture, current affairs, tour planning and problem solving – Blue Badge guides know it all.
Professional Blue Badge training was launched just after World War II in London when visitors began requesting bomb site tours. The Blue Badge, UK’s highest tourist guiding qualification, is managed by The Guild of Registered Tourist Guides. The two-year program is designed to ensure that those who pass the stringent Institute of Tourist Guiding Level 4 practical and written assessment exams are well versed on the cultural background of Britain, have extensive local and regional knowledge, and expertise in guiding techniques and presentation skills.
Blue Badge Guides are national in focus, while Green Badge (Level 3) Guides are regional. The Guild of Registered Tourist Guides represents around 1,900 guides across the UK. The Institute of Tourist Guiding has approximately 2,000 ‘Green Badge’ and ‘Blue Badge’ guide members in the UK, with 800 working in the city of London alone.
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Tourist guiding in South Africa falls into three categories – nature (wildlife, wildflower and wetland guiding), culture (heritage sites, rock art and archaeology) and adventure (abseiling, paragliding and river rafting). Each category has three levels that reflect the complexity and learning required, including site or specialist, regional or provincial and national.
It’s illegal to conduct guided tours without proper qualification, and guides can only do tours within the categories and levels for which they have qualified. Registered guides are also required to abide by a Code of Conduct and Ethics, hold a First Aid Certificate, and renew their registration every two years. The highest level of certification is the National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF) Level 10 which requires a post-doctoral research degree, doctorate or masters degree.
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Egypt is well known as the home of an ancient civilization characterized by temples, hieroglyphs, pyramids and mummies. Egyptology is the study of that ancient history and culture, which spans over 4,600 years. It encompasses all aspects of ancient Egyptian civilization, from language, literature, religion to art, architecture and social structure.
Tourist Guides complete a stringent four-year training program, and many are also Egyptologists who have earned a Ph.D in the subject. Total training can take at least eight years of university study, often longer. Undergraduate courses include Eastern studies, art history, anthropology, archeology, classical studies or history, masters-level courses cover foreign language research, middle Egyptian grammar and translation, and Egyptological research methods, while doctorate activities include a dissertation of original work that contributes to the field of Egyptology. The program of study is only offered by a few universities around the word. Language creates the foundation of an Egyptologists expertise, so fluency in French and German are essential, while Arabic, either the classic form or the Egyptian dialect, is highly desirable as well.
Egyptian guides require a licensed issued by the Ministry of Tourism or the Tourism Police, depending on which activity type they are responsible for.
For more information on profession of Tourist Guiding, visit the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (WFTGA) website.