To comply with EU Directives, the Italian Ministry of Tourism has recently drafted a bill to regulate the profession of Tourist guide. Tourist guides’ activities include organising itineraries and welcoming tourists, with the purpose of guiding them through visits of the cultural and natural heritage sites of a certain area.
This legislation was a long time coming, as until now the profession of tourist guide was regulated by each Italian region separately and the issuing of the relevant qualification was also a regional/provincial competence. With the new bill, the profession would be recognised at national and even at European level.
However, the text of the bill, still under scrutiny at the Senate, has raised a lot of criticism – including from the National Association of Tourist Guides – and many amendments have been presented.
Among these, the one put forward by ICOM Italy and signed by a large number of Italian museum and heritage professionals.
What is contested here is Article 2 of the bill, which states that “Tourist guides may obtain further specialisations, thematic or territorial, through training courses of 650 hours:
- for cultural, artistic, craft, technical-scientific and food and wine sectors;
- for museum educators and specific techniques of communication with persons with disabilities, as well as for other cultural and technical sectors useful for the exercise of the profession.”
The point ICOM Italy makes is that such competences – delivering educational activities addressed to different audiences and to people with disabilities – can’t be acquired through a training course of only 650 hours.
Cultural heritage educators acquire such expert knowledge and skills as a result of higher education at university level, project practice and constant upskilling with regard both to heritage and audiences.
The main point is not to undermine the work and legitimate expectations of tourist guides, but to make a fair distinction of who can do what and to regulate both professions.
In fact, unlike tourist guides whose profession has been at least regulated at regional level, cultural heritage educators have been long waiting for a legislative process that would acknowledge their work and remove from precariousness a profession dealing with heritage protection and education, identified as institutional purposes and recognised by the Italian Constitution.