In a letter to the E.U. Commission dated 15 December, European Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (FEG) chairman Carlos A. Ortega Gutierrez called on relevant authorities to put a stop to services offered in European cities by “free tours” operators, companies or private persons.
Advertised on the web particularly through social media and word of mouth, the free tours practice first emerged in major European capitals in 2009, and offered tourists guided walking tours free of charge.
Concerned about the phenomenon, FEG organized a round-table discussion on the issue in Brussels in 2010 during its general meeting, after receiving complaints by its member associations.
FEG claims that the tours are conducted by unqualified and unauthorized persons and expresses its concerns that while many of its members are unemployed, free tour operators are offering services — often involving financial transactions in the form of tips — which are unregulated by the state and in direct violation of EU and national laws.
In its letter FEG refers to main points of concern, which include among others, the lack of training and qualification, the violation of fair trade standards and transparency, and the lack of safety standards, and calls on relevant authorities to intervene by regulating the sector, implementing penalties and raising awareness via the net and social media as to the reality of the free tours practice.