Association of Professional Tourist Guides

10 Things to Know About the Association of Professional Tourist Guides - APTG

1. What year was APTG established and where is the headquarters?

APTG was founded in 1989 and is a membership association of about 600 professionally qualified London Blue Badge tourist guides, mostly full-time working guides, with its headquarters in London, UK.

APTG is the only association where the membership is uniquely made up of London Blue Badge tourist guides.

Blue Badge Tourist Guide Vicki Bick with group at Kensington Palace in London © APTGBlue Badge Tourist Guide Vicki Bick with group at Kensington Palace in London © APTG

2. What is the primary mission/ goal of APTG?

APTG seeks to promote the highest possible standards and ethics in tourism in general and in tour-ist guiding in particular. APTG actively supports and promotes its members who are all London Blue Badge tourist guides.

APTG actively seeks to cooperate with other organisations and stakeholders e g the Institute of Tourist Guiding, the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides, the European Federation of Tourist Guide Associations, the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations, London Boroughs, the Mayor’s Office, Transport for London etc. and the majority of sites and attractions in London and its sur-rounding area.

APTG lobbies politically and campaigns for increased recognition of our profession and better awareness of the important role of the qualified tourist guide when promoting sustainability, quali-ty and transparency within the tourism sector.

3. How does someone become a qualified tourist guide in London and the UK?

In order to become a Blue Badge tourist guide, the highest qualification for tourist guides in the UK, candidates undergo an in-depth and rigorous training programme, both academic and practi-cal, followed by exams set by the Institute of Tourist Guiding, the standard setting body for tourist guide training in England.

The training programme is compliant with the European Standard CEN 15565 and has been certi-fied by FEG to that effect.

Successful candidates are rewarded with the Blue Badge, enabling them to conduct tours in a particular region. Although APTG is an association of London Blue Badge tourist guides, many members are qualified for additional regions.

4. After becoming qualified, what are some of the professional development classes that guides typi-cally take in London to enhance their knowledge and skills?

Many members have additional professional qualifications e g some are art –historians, lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects, archaeologists etc.

On top of their Blue Badge tourist guide qualification, members of APTG undertake CPD [contin-uous professional development] throughout their careers in order to stay up to date and develop further specialisms.

Some CPD courses have exams and lead to additional endorsements such as the 2012 Olympics, Parliament, Somerset House etc. Other modules cover as varied subjects as ‘Russian connections in London’, ‘Protecting the Monarchy – an Insider Talk’ and ‘Agatha Christie & Archaeology’.

5. Is there an official badge that qualified tourist guides in London wear?

Blue Badge tourist guides do wear a Blue Badge! It is oval, made of metal and has the name of the guide engraved on it. It is also engraved with the Institute of Tourist Guiding who issues the badge. Make sure your London guide has this Blue Badge – it is your guarantee of quality.

Blue Badge tourist guides also have a photo card which many of them wear. Apart from a photo and the name of the owner it has the Blue Badge tourist guide’s Institute membership number.

6. How many qualified tourist guides are members of APTG?

APTG has about 600 members who amongst themselves speak over 25 languages. They come from varied backgrounds; indeed some were born in other countries but have since made Lon-don their home. For some, tourist guiding was a main career choice after university and academic study, others have a background in travel and tourism.

Blue Badge Tourist Guide Alex Hetherington with visitors at grave of The Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey in London © APTGBlue Badge Tourist Guide Alex Hetherington with visitors at grave of The Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey in London © APTG

Many members made a career change and use their previous experience and qualifications to offer a range of different tours, some more in depth or specialised. So although it could be seen as very challenging to meet the extremely varied demands from tourists and clients from all over the world, wishing to enjoy all kinds of tours in various languages, APTG is confident that amongst its many members we have the right Blue Badge tourist guide for you!

Many members offer themed tours and amongst the more popular are Harry Potter, Street Art, and Royal London. However, we also have members who offer tours on the themes of James Bond & Spies, Multicultural London, the Monopoly Game, Fossils, Suffragettes, Exceptional Women in the British Museum, 1st World War, Fashion, the Art of JMW Turner, Gardens, Urban Regenera-tion, Irish London and much much more.

7. What are some of the top reasons for using a qualified tourist guide in London?

Through numerous site liaison officers the APTG seeks to foster excellent relationships with visi-tor sites and attractions throughout London.

Blue Badge Tourist Guides do not pay entrance fees to enter the majority of venues and in some cases have privileged access when accompanying clients for ticket acquisition /entry.

Certain venues including The Tower of London and Westminster Abbey prohibit guiding by unqualified outside guides and their staff enforce those rules.

The APTG heavily promotes the professionalism of qualified Blue Badge Tourist Guides both with the trade and direct clients.

The bulk of the trade who aspire to the provision of high quality products recognise the value of using Blue Badge tourist guides to deliver tours to their clients.

When working with direct clients, qualified guides provide an invaluable service in advising on how to make the best use of their time.

8. What are some of the popular places to visit in London?

Of late ‘experiential’ tours have increasingly featured on the tour ‘landscape’.

In London for example, the ‘must see’ venues including The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace/royal sites, ’Big Ben’ & the Parliamentary district together with its world class museums and galleries get the highest visitor numbers.

More recently we have seen newer innovations such as food, menswear and street art tours and increasing numbers with an ethnic slant like ‘The Jewish East End’ and Brixton and others with literary, local or cultural themes.

The London Blue Badge also qualifies those guides to cover certain places outside London including; - The University City of Oxford, World Heritage sites Stonehenge, Bath, Blenheim Palace and Canterbury (the oldest cathedral in the UK) and numerous castles and historic sites in the county of Kent to the south of London.

9. What are some general tips you would give to potential visitors planning a vacation to London?

Blue Badge Tourist Guides can help clients with the planning of their visits and wherever possible, it helps to start the process at an early stage.

With ‘over tourism’ on the rise, where clients are able to travel in ‘off- peak’ times they can benefit from lower numbers at the top sites.

10. Where can potential visitor to London find our more information about APTG and also find a qualified tourist guide?

Clients can identify and contact Blue Badge tourist guide members of the APTG in 2 ways through its official website

i) By clicking on ‘Find A Guide’ on the front page of the site, the client will be asked to input some basic data i.e.

  • Date of tour
  • Language
  • Mode of transport e.g. walking, public transport or driven
  • Duration
  • Tour Theme
  • If they have a name in mind they can also input that. Otherwise, the system will give the client a list of guides who meet the criteria and on the page for each one will see:
    • an email link directly to the guide
    • the availability of that guide

The client can thus make arrangements directly with their chosen guides without the need for a third party.

ii) ‘Guide Match’ is the second way where the client again fills out a simple form which matches the specification with 3 suitable guides.

All three will receive that basic information and are free to contact the client with their offering.

The client decides which one to progress with and again, this is done directly with the guide.