It’s about the people, not about the system. I would dare say, in a tourism context, it is about the guide, not the destination. Because a good guide can make the dullest destination interesting – if s/he has a good story. And how to tell a story and keep people interested is a skill that has to be learned.
The 9th Regional Meeting of Alpe Adria Guides took place on 6 February 2019 and one of the topics was the education of tourist guides in relation to interpretation of the places for which they are licensed, as well as the heritage they are interpreting. Tina Hudnik and Maja Campelj, aka G-Guides, decided for the first time to change the venue of this year’s meeting so instead of Ljubljana, Slovenia, it was held in Klagenfurt, Austria. And they were fully supported by the Chamber of Commerce of the Carinthia region, which was a very welcoming host, and the Austria Guides Association and Slovenia Professional Tourist Guides Club. The event was excellently structured so, through three lectures held by tourist guides from the Austria Guide Association, we learned how much, in essence, we are connected regionally, historically and culturally. Patricia Gerlich told us about the Counts of Ortenburg and their relationship within the Alps-Adriatic region, Irene Weber presented Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, giving examples from Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, whilst Martha Mann told us an interesting story about Julius Kugy, a great mountaineer, botanist and writer, a lover of the Julian Alps.
Whether we admit it or not, we can never know everything. No matter how much we learn and improve ourselves, there is no tourist guide or tour leader who can know everything about all destinations. Impossible, and that’s it! Dalmatian people would say, Give the child to the mother. And they’re right. Because, no matter how great an internet guru you are, you will simply be unable to find on those stories which local tourist guides have heard from their grandmas and grandpas, from a lady Mare who doesn’t remember which day was yesterday but she undoubtedly remembers her neighbour Joa making pots in his workshop and how she with her friends used to pass by his workshop accidentally and always got something from him. Not to talk about legends, stories, customs. But to make sense of all that, local self-government has to provide the infrastructure, schools and colleges must provide adequate education, professional associations deliver quality upgrading and specialisation, whilst guides have to constantly improve themselves and their skills.
A panel discussion, in which a range of differently qualified stakeholders participated, looked at how to connect all the elements of sustainable tourism with a focus on the role of tourist guides providing universal satisfaction. Iztok Sila is a lecturer at the Higher Vocational College for Hospitality and Tourism Bled, Gregor Fodransperg is the owner of Slovenia Explorer travel agency, Georg Overs is the Villach Region Tourist Board Director, Antonella Comelli is a tourist guide from Udine, Elizabeta MIlanović is the Central Podravina Tourist Board Director and I, Ivana Karanikić, am a tourist guide and the owner of Prolingua travel agency.
Besides the fact that we both come from Croatia, my colleague, Elizabeta, and I have another common link – we are both Interpret Europe Certified Interpretive Guides. And if judging by the positive reactions of participants to our presentation, I believe that we were more than successful in transferring the basic postulates on which Interpret Europe creates courses for interpretative guides to approximately 120 colleagues who participated in this event.
In a pleasant 90-minute discussion, we all agreed that Alps-Adriatic Region undoubtedly presents untapped potential and that actually we, tourist guides, are those who can, with the help of tourism stakeholders and decision makers as well as educational institutions, make a step forward in cross-border cooperation and promotion of this beautiful region we live in. Likewise, we agreed that there should be more such events because they surely are an excellent opportunity for meeting colleagues and networking.
Tourist guides have always been and always will be, regardless of turbulences, a force which breaks the cultural differences between tourists and visitors and the local population – the best ambassadors of their country, history and heritage, and therefore an important wheel in the mechanism of sustainability of a destination and launching the economic development.
Ivana Karanikić is a licenced tourist guide, tour leader and the owner of Prolingua travel agency (www.prolingua-travel.hr) and is an IE Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG). She can be contacted at: [email protected].
To cite this article:
Karanikić, Ivana (2019) ‘Tourist Guide – a power that destroys cultural differences’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 1-2019, 20.