Tourist guides are among the hardest hit professionals by the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and governments must extend support measures in order to safeguard the profession, according to a recent study carried out by the European Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (FEG).
Representing 27 national tourist guide associations in Europe, FEG conducted a study on the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns for a period of three months on tourist guide income, working hours, and compensation.
The vast majority of guides said they depend on guiding to provide their income, with 83.58 percent of participants having no other financial source. A total of 23.67 percent have been active for at least 10 years.
The majority, at 87.80 percent, are self-employed and working flexible hours, which makes them more vulnerable, the study notes, due to the fact that they rarely have access to government funding and support.
Indicatively, in February, guides polled said they had lost some 53,000 working hours due to Covid-19-related cancelations with an average 523 euros of income lost per guide. It should be noted that February is one of the least active months of the year with 15 percent of all guides surveyed not active at this time. Less than 1 percent said that canceled tours in February were re-booked for a later date.
Survey results indicate a further decline in March, the official start of the tourist season for many European countries, with an approximate loss of 115,000 working hours and an estimated 1,835 euros per guide in lost income.
This increased to 139,000 lost working hours in April – Easter season – and approximately 2,360 euros per guide in lost income. Losses indicated account only for pre-booked tours and engagements excluding last-minute and individual bookings.
FEG notes that the 800-euro subsidy granted by most countries to professionals out of a job due to the coronavirus crisis was “nowhere near the expected average earning levels for guides… In addition, this financial aid is limited in time and will not cover loss of earnings for the months to come”.
In efforts to safeguard the profession, the federation proposes the continuation of financial aid for tourist guides even after travel restrictions have been lifted; granting EU-backed, low-interest micro-loans to allow tourist guides to seek further training; and promoting tourist guide activity as a sustainable service model.