RCCL's Majesty of the Seas - Miami 2010
The Fourth NFTGA-USA Conference

Day 1 - Monday, February 22, 2010

The conference started with an orientation meeting and all attendees were pre-registered and given a program and a name badge. Forty-nine attendees representing nine associations were there. Attending associations included Boston, Chicago, Denver, Florida, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Washington and the International Association of Tour Managers.

Esther Banike, the president, welcomed everyone and introduced the members of the board.

Kevin Doran, the president of the Professional Tour Guides Association of Florida, was introduced as the chair of the host association for the conference. He reviewed the program and discussed the format.

The president then reviewed the history of the NFTGA.

Rosalind Newlands, the president of the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations was introduced and discussed the advantages of NFTGA and individual U.S. associations being members of the WFTGA. She also discussed the upcoming WFTGA bi-annual conference in Tallinn, Estonia to be held January 30 - February 4, 2011 and urged everyone to attend.

Day 2 - Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A four person panel, including Jean Feilmoser (San Francisco), Beverly Livingston (Chicago), Gene Reyes (New Orleans), and Sandra Sheskin (Washington) discussed the topic: "Search and Rescue." This topic was meant to discuss existing problems and solutions about the future of guiding.

Beverly Livingston stated that a guide needs "breadth" which includes knowledge of art, history, architecture and ethnic cultures for clients who are youth, senior, religious and international groups and "depth" which includes specialized knowledge, foreign language skills (if needed) and the characteristics of a docent to be a good tourist guide. She further stated that it is necessary to network with DMCs and concierges. With regard to the latter, she suggested sending personal emails to receptive tour operators and DMCs indicating her availability. She also indicated it is necessary to remain upbeat and flexible during this economic period.

Gene Reyes stated it is necessary to improve one's education and presentation skills. And not be a boring speaker. He suggested that a tourist guide has to adapt to change and grow as the world is constantly changing. Also, he feels that it is very important to get tour groups to be relaxed at the very beginning of a tour.

Sandra Sheskin indicated that it is important to work with affiliate members such as receptive tour operators and DMCs. She stated that the Washington Guild has a paid administrator that among other things alerts the membership on a timely basis of requests for guides. Also, the Guild conducts a job fair and invites affiliate members (suppliers) to participate. The category of affiliate membership is used as a method of raising revenue and gaining greater recognition for the Guild. In addition, she advocates establishing relationships with concierges, government (U.S. and international) agencies and a new web site organization named US Tour Professional (address to come) in seeking guide opportunities.

Jean Feilmoser said the San Francisco association has different classifications for opportunities for jobs, such as certified; associate for uncertified guides; and, meet and greet for jobs that only required that activity. She also suggested going in person to concierges and DMCs to introduce oneself.

There was a question about how to qualify and test foreign language proficiency. Washington uses a language school (Inlingua) to test skills. Guides are classified as either native speaker (no test required) or "studied." The latter has three levels: fluent, conversant and proficient. It was suggested that other organizations such as Berlitz or a local university could be involved in testing.

Several associations have associate member categories for suppliers and friends (retired guides, guests, etc.). Again, this is a way to raise revenue and get suppliers (DMCs, tour operators, attractions, etc.).

Both Washington and San Francisco have a code of ethics that members must sign when joining and renewing membership. Complaints are required to be written and kept confidential. Only the association president, ethics committee and the involved guide are made aware of the complaint and the follow up action taken.

The afternoon session consisted of three individual workshops and attendees could attend one of the sessions. Recordings of all three sessions were to be made and distributed afterward. One workshop was "A Guide's Guide to the 21st Century" by Kevin Doran (Florida). Another was "Talent for Talk + Power Point" by Jean Feilmoser (San Francisco). The third session was "A How-To Primer on Cruise Tours You Can Sell, Book and Guide Yourself" by George Gehl, CEO of Helms Briscoe's Cruise division.

Harvey Paul Davidson (New York City) selected A Tour Guide's Guide to the 21st Century. This discussed how the tour guide's role in the future will be affected by the social, technological and environmental forces developing in the world around us. We can already recognize some of these changes, but obviously only speculate about the future. In the future, technology will change the way information is communicated as the next generation of tourists will be more independent and environments and political conditions will affect travel habits. We discussed how these trends might impact our profession and how we as individuals and associations could move forward so that we remain viable and vibrant. Although most guides expressed opinions that guides would always be needed there was a discussion as to whether or not guides would become dinosaurs or an endangered species in the future.

After lunch, a special historical walking tour conducted by the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism was given. The tour ended at the Governor's Residence where we welcomed and mingled with Bahamian guides and representatives of the Ministry of Tourism People to People program. A presentation was made by a representative of the Minister of Tourism and Ros Newlands, president of the WFTGA, gave a talk on the occasion of International Tourist Guide Day.

Day 3 - Wednesday, February 23, 2010

The program was a general session with the theme of the conference, "From Sea to Shining Sea."

Esther Banike presented the results of a survey that asked each association to do the following.

  1. List five major historical sites or events you think we should know about in our guiding region.
  2. Who are five historical figures we should know?
  3. Name five architectural sites/architects and/or natural wonders you would show or talk about to tourists who visit your area.
  4. Five favorite things for tourists to do in your city or region?
  5. What three "other" tourist guiding facts might you want to add?

Ms. Banike also discussed the idea of having a national certification program for guides. While the idea was generally accepted as a good one, it was suggested that the time was not right for this project for several reasons, including the cost of developing a program.

Ros Newlands (Scotland) presented a report about developments at WFTGA and a promotion idea created by the Scottish Tourist Guides Association. It was a two sided book mark (1 ½" X 8 ½") that was distributed to DMCs and concierges. One side said:

BOOK A GUIDE NOT A GUIDE BOOK, Scottish Tourist Guides Association Celebrating 50 years of professional guiding, 1959-2009, www.stga.co.uk.

The other side said:

Tours in 20 different languages
Guiding on land or sea, on foot or on coach
Driver Guiding • Corporate and Incentive markets
For more details contact 01786 451 953

Ms. Newlands discussed tourist guide terminology established by the European Committee for Standardization and referred to as "ISD" (international standard definition). The ISD for a tourist guide is a person who guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of an area. Such a person normally possesses an area specific qualification usually issued and/or recognized by an appropriate authority. For example, knowledge of New York City recognized by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Also, Ms. Newlands singled out and commended GANYC for the poster I created (guides in Times Square) and the letter we distributed on behalf of the WFTGA to elected and appointed government figures and tourism associations stating that guides have to be licensed in NYC.

In addition, Ms. Newlands spoke about the WFTGA executive board and membership in 54 countries with over 100,000 tourist guides world wide. This number does not include affiliated tourism businesses, tourist boards and educational institutions with tourism programs

Maricar Donato (Washington), a WFTGA Accredited International Trainer, presented a session about Cruise Guide Training. She discussed the different terminology for cruise passengers as opposed to terminology used for land tours. The role of the cruise tourist guide is slightly different, because the guide needs to be aware of varied passenger profiles and introduce new culture. Safety issues must be stated, such as the location of exits, fire extinguishers, the need to be seated on coaches, contact information for the DMC for emergencies and the need for a cruise representative on land excursions.

Ms. Donato then conducted a workshop on hand signals that should or should not be used with certain groups as the interpretations were very varied. For example, the OK sign used in the U.S. is an obscene gesture in Brazil and an insult in Japan.

There is an online cruise guide training program scheduled for this June for WFTGA members, tour operators and DMCs (GANYC members are eligible). More information will be forth coming.

Day 4 - Thursday, February 24, 2010

The morning program consisted of a private trolley tour of Key West that was followed by a presentation given by Chris Belland, CEO of Historic Tours of America. Mr. Belland described his background as a Harvard graduate with a liberal arts degree who went to work for IBM and was sent to China and Japan. He later resigned and went to work as a guide for a tour operator in Key West and eventually bought the business when the owner retired. He used his Asian knowledge to expand the business by offering tours to China and Japan. Also, he is active in the National Tour Association and is on a committee that has a government grant that is setting up tours for Chinese tourists to come to the U.S.

The afternoon program consisted of the closing ceremonies. A review of the conference activities was conducted by the president, Esther Banike. Ms. Banike discussed the top ten reasons to belong to the NFTGA.

  1. NFTGA member associations without sufficient participants to purchase their own tour guide liability insurance are eligible through NFTGA.
  2. Representation. Since July 2007, the NFTGA has a government affairs liaison in Washington, DC. Its representative attends Congressional hearings, interacts with government and industry insiders on tourism-industry related issues, and advises when participation is to NFTGA's benefit. She is a former civil servant who knows how the system works.
  3. Numbers. People are more impressed and pay closer attention to requests when you say that you are aligned with thousands of guides nationwide. As NFTGA members interact with industry partners and other entities, they are similar to the guy in the Verizon commercial with nearly 2,200 guides standing with them.
  4. Potential job references through networking.
  5. Availability of information from and about other guide associations and contact information.
  6. Access to membership in the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations and a reduced rate to its conferences. Delegates to the 2009 Bali conference voted for Estonia's bid to host the 2011 conference. (GANYC members are eligible and urged to attend.)
  7. Representation at the WFTGA's Delegates Meeting. If the number 2,200 makes people pay attention, try 100,000 - the number of WFTGA members world-wide!
  8. A national voice and presence.
  9. National conferences. Continuing education and opportunities to travel and interact with other guide associations - all come with a tax advantage.
  10. An opportunity to help form the future of tourist guiding in the United States.

Bonus Reason:
NFTGA has taken the first steps to establish a National Tour Guide Familiarization Program. This program will allow members free or reduced rate entry at major tourism venues across the U.S.A. As museums and other tourism venues come to realize the influence we have as tourism professionals, they also recognize the benefit of welcoming us into their places of business.

The conference closed with each attendee being awarded a Certificate of Participation.