The Norwegian government has announced plans to introduce stricter regulations for those working as tour guides. It follows reports of misinformation being disseminated to tourists. Here’s what you need to know.
Have you ever visited Norway and taken a guided tour? If so, how was the quality of the tour guide?
But on a recent trip, I heard from one person on a different tour who was very disappointed. He said their guide was a student new to the area who couldn’t answer basic questions beyond what was in their notes.
It would seem that an increasing number of tourists have had similar experiences. So much so, that the Norwegian government wants to improve the situation. They are considering strengthening regulation by introducing an approval scheme for anyone wanting to work as a tour guide.
Misinformation from tour guides
According to NRK, a guide recently misinformed cruise ship tourists in Måløy, asserting that tsunamis, earthquakes, llamas, and the fish ‘species’ known as stockfish were all common in the region.
Per Christensen, a Norwegian tourist on the trip, expressed his disbelief and concern, stating, “It was quite a bizarre experience.”
A spokesperson from Visit Norway didn’t comment on the specific case but said “we are aware of several similar stories.”
Working as a tour guide in Norway
Becoming a tour guide is one of the most popular tourism jobs in Norway. The vast majority of tour guides are not full-time employees, as the tourism market in Norway is mostly seasonal. As such, it's ideal part-time work for students.
In university cities, multilingual students can earn extra money by leading tours in German, Spanish, or one of many other languages.
Currently, there are no formal requirements for someone to be called a ‘guide' in Norway. Anyone can use this title, leading to potential inconsistencies in the quality and accuracy of the information provided to tourists.
Accreditation for tour guides
To combat this, a national approval scheme for local and regional guides, tour leaders, and mountain guides is now under development, following a decision made in the coalition government agreement of autumn 2021.
This scheme will potentially introduce basic requirements that all guides must meet. While the details are to be confirmed, it's expected they will emphasize the importance of accurate communication, risk assessment, and first aid knowledge.
Oscar Almgren, head of Uteguiden, a tour company in Sunnmøre, stressed the need for such requirements, saying, “it's a problem for the entire industry when there are no concrete requirements.”
The push for quality standards isn't new. The Norwegian Guide Association has been advocating for higher standards for guiding services for the past 40 years. Some local regions, like Ålesund, have taken matters into their own hands by creating their own certification processes for guides.
Margunn Kristin Vassdal, head of the Ålesund Guide Association, said that their guides must undergo 150 hours of courses and pass both oral and written exams.
The official proposal for the national approval scheme is set to be presented to the government in December.