Tour guide regulations closer to returning

The government is backing a proposal to end free tours by unlicensed guides

The days of people standing with umbrellas offering free tours in Prague may be coming to an end. The government will support Prague’s proposal in the Chamber of Deputies to make being a tour guide a closed trade that requires a license.

Prague City Hall claims that many unlicensed guides give out wrong information and also to not pay taxes on the tips they receive for the free tours.

The amendment would require guides to pass a test. Training would be done, for example, in the capital by Prague City Tourism, the association in charge of tourism in the city. The guide would also have a trade license.

Guiding tours became a free, or unregulated, trade six years ago due to a change in the law. Since then, the number of people offering tours has grown greatly, with unlicensed guides offering services at many major tourist sites.

The proposed amendment is mainly directed against people offering free tours, where the guide asks for tips at the end. These tips often go unreported as income. The guides, when caught, sometimes claim the donations are for charity.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (for ANO) said the proposal would provide tourists with better information and help to protect professional guides from competition.

Prague City Tourism currently has 1,437 officially licensed guides. They do not have any estimates for the number of people offering free tours.

Tour Guide Association (AP) chairman Stanislav Voleman supports the change. “Unfortunately, more and more visitors are accompanied by unskilled guides. The proposed amendment will, in our opinion, have a positive impact on the development of tourism, the business environment and employment in the industry,” he said.

Tomio Okamura (SPD), currently deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, previously was a spokesman for the Association of Czech Travel Agencies (AČCKA ). He participated in the changes to the law in 2008 and opposes changing the law back.

When the amendment was first mentioned earlier this year, he voiced his opposition.

“If the tour guide service becomes a closed trade, it will have a number of negative effects, for example, this measure will only apply to Czech guides, so foreign guides will benefit from it. Secondly, tourism in the Czech regions will be restricted because of a lack of local guides,” Okamura said, adding that no evidence of tourists complaining about free tours has been presented.

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