The rapid return of tourists after the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed a shortage of qualified tour guides with language skills on the Costa del Sol, especially in Marbella, Estepona, inland Antequera and, to a greater extent, Malaga city.
Speaking on International Tourist Guide Day on Tuesday this week, Sergio Garrido, head of the association of official tour guides in Malaga province, said that the lack of qualified professionals was causing a problem in meeting demand.
He explained that during the two years of the health crisis, many guides looked for alternative work and have since settled into a new profession. In addition, since the regional government eliminated the need to pass an exam to obtain professional accreditation in 2015, the problem of finding guides with a good enough command of foreign languages has increased. Garrido said that the greatest shortages are in guides who are fluent in German or French.
The regulation of official guides, who generally are the only ones permitted to guide visits to listed monuments or a catalogued historic area of a town, is delegated to each of the regional governments in Spain.
The Andalusian government tried to patch up the foreign language problem in 2020 by insisting guides need a C1 (advanced) level in English and a B2 (upper intermediary) in another language to obtain the official guide accreditation in Andalucía.
However, the lack of a standard level of requirement across the country means potential guides can go to another region, with fewer requirements, get a guide's card and return to Andalucía to work.
Garrido explained that the northern region of Aragon is currently the area in which it is easiest to obtain an official guide badge because it is more relaxed about languages, principally because that region doesn't have as high a level of foreigners visiting as in Andalucía.
With a shortage of registered guides, the outlook for the some 500 working in Malaga province is looking bright for 2023. Garrido highlighted the return of tourists from the Far East. Last Sunday there were four Korean groups touring Mijas Pueblo, he said.
Following the announcement of the restart of the direct flight from New York to the Costa del Sol, the guides' association has received 26 requests for guided tours from American travel firms for May to October.
«Also going well this winter is demand from tourists arriving on the Transat flights from Canada,» he said.
The official, paid guides, remain unhappy, however, with the spread of so-called 'free tours', where guides work on an optional tip-only basis to get around the licensing regulations. «We think that we can solve this unfair competition problem by going to the competition authority,» he added.
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