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Posted at 6:57 PM ET, 09/24/2010

What a good tour guide knows

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Jim Heegeman
Arlington


Regarding the Sept. 19 Local Opinions commentary “D.C.’s strange crackdown on ‘describing without a license’ ”:

Many people who live in or near Washington act informally as tour guides when friends and families come to visit. Residents give pointers about using Metro, where to eat and when attractions are open. But these individual activities don’t begin to handle the flood of people who come to the nation’s capital each year. Tourism is a major industry in this area, bringing in more than 20 million visitors who together spend more than $5 billion. The D.C. Council recognizes the importance of this industry and wants people to return home talking about their wonderful experiences here.

Accordingly, the council has directed that some standards be set for professional tour guides. Yes, professional guides may specialize in certain groups or topics, but there are various sets of knowledge that they may be asked about in the course of a day. Tourists are by nature curious and ask wide-ranging questions. Because of that, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs recognizes that guides need to know about historical events, architecture and D.C. regulations, in addition to information about monuments, memorials and sculptures.

The DCRA licensing exam checks for minimum understanding and is not difficult for anyone serious about guiding. The exam had a major overhaul recently, attesting to the interest that DCRA has in improving standards for professional guides. We can be glad that the D.C. Council recognizes the importance of tourism in Washington and supports the licensing of professional tour guides.

The writer is president of the Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, D.C.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | September 24, 2010; 6:57 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, crime  
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