City Hall may regulate tour guides

Licenses guides are complaining that almost anyone can give tours

City Hall is considering regulations for people working as tour guides. Currently, almost anyone can give tours without a license.

Currently, guides do not have to have any qualifications, be registered or have a trade license. They can simply work for any travel agency registered in the EU, or claim they are giving a tour to people they know, according to the Association of Guides of the Czech Republic (SP ČR).

A common practice is for guides to offer a free tour, where tourists don't pay in advance but can give a tip at the end if they choose to.

Critics claim that the tour guides, often foreigners, have insufficient knowledge and language skills, and misrepresent local places and history to tourists. There is no requirement for professional training.

Changes to the Trades Licensing Act in 2008 allowed guides to operate without a license. The Ministry of Industry and Trade, though, is not considering new changes to the law as they do not consider it an effective way to deal with the issue.

Prague City Tourism spokeswoman Barbora Hrubá said that there is no way to estimate the number of unregistered tour guides. Prague City Tourism, which is funded by the city, has registered 1,343 trained and qualified guides.

The Association of Guides of the Czech Republic says that it is unusual in Europe for qualified tour guides not to be protected under the law. Bratislava, for example, still has rules to regulate tour guides, the SP ČR states.

The Association of Guides filed a complaint with the city in the spring to try to get some changes on the municipal level to deal with the situation. The complaint is being dealt with by the control committee of the Prague City Council.

Committee chairman Jaroslava Janderová (ODS) said that a solution would be for the city pass a decree that defines how the city can be shown to tourists. She says that the monument reserve that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site should only be shown by licensed guides.

The committee will return to the topic in September is currently putting legal documents together. The decree would need the approval of the City Council. She hopes the decree could be in place by next summer.

Prague City Councilor Jan Wolf (Three-party Coalition / KDU-ČSL), responsible for culture, agrees that the situation regarding unlicensed guides in not ideal, but he says the current law does not allow for a decree of the type that is being discussed.

He says that the solution should be for more tour guides to get better educated and for licensed guides to be identified visually so they can be distinguished from others. He also would like information about the situation with guides to be available on the internet.

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