Italian specialist tour operators are set to benefit from a relaxation of the law concerning the use of foreign tour guides.
European Tour Operators Association executive director Tom Jenkins, who welcomed the move, said that the original law dates back to the 1930s and states only official guides with local authority accreditation can lead a group.
The practice effectively prevented teachers, foreign guides and university lecturers from leading groups, while local guides could charge whatever they liked thanks to the monopoly the law created.
Operators could only get around the ruling by employing a ‘silent’ local guide when visiting any of the country’s 2,500 key tourist sites or face an on- the-spot fine, or even arrest.
Now, following a vote by the Italian government last month to liberalise aspects of the economy including tourist regulations, the law should be dropped.
Jenkins said: “This is tremendous news for the tourism industry.
“We have campaigned against restrictive practices in Italy ever since the association was established 18 years ago. It now looks as if clients will be free to listen to whomever they want.”
Kirker Holidays sales and marketing director Ted Wake welcomed the move, adding: “We’re always delighted when a change in regulations allows us to offer clients greater flexibility.”
Cosmos head of product Ian Hailes agreed, saying: “It is definitely going to keep the costs down and we will be able to pass that on to the customers.”
WA Shearings sales and marketing director Karen Gee also said the move would help, although all three operators pledged to continue using local guides when needed due to the additional in-depth knowledge they can provide when guiding visitors around Italy’s key sites.