Tourist agency to test guides on language skills, Brussels knowledge

Summary

The Brussels tourist authority VisitBrussels wants to introduce a new accreditation system for tourist guides

Free walking tours

VisitBrussels, the capital’s tourist agency, has said it wants to introduce an official accreditation system for the dozens of guides who tell tourists all about popular attractions like Grande Place, Manneken Pis and the Atomium.

Both qualified and unqualified guides will be eligible for the soon-to-be introduced accreditation. Guides who want to obtain the official title will have to take tests assessing their language abilities and knowledge of Brussels.

The announcement follows on longstanding complaints over the unqualified guides who takes visitors on free walking tours of Brussels. Offered by a handful companies like Sandemans New Europe and Viva’s Group, these pay-what-you-will free city tours do not have to be booked in advance and have grown in popularity in recent years. But the qualified guides who run the official tours organised by VisitBrussels say these free city tours amount to unfair competition and that their untrained competitors lack knowledge about the capital.  

VisitBrussels hopes the new accreditation will ensure that tourists are taken on high-quality tours, no matter whether they’re given by a trained or untrained guide. VisitBrussels spokesperson Jeroen Roppe told Bruzz that the tourist agency isn’t out to target anyone with the new measure. “It’s certainly not our intention to ban ‘free city tours’ from the city since untrained guides will also be able to obtain the accreditation,” he said, adding that new system is also meant to ensure basic social rights for the guides who administer the free walking tours.

Many details of the new accreditation system, however, are still murky. The Brussels government that recently took office still has to draft and approve a proposal transposing the new accreditation system into law.

Photo: Belga / Eric Lalmand