Tourist guides are a critical part of the UK’s £127 billion tourism industry, yet simply because they are freelance some are now struggling to know how they will pay the rent and get food on their tables.
“We’re adding our voice to two other organisations calling on the Chancellor to include freelance tourist guides and provide compensation for freelancers,” said Marilyn Collis, President of the Institute of Tourist Guides.
“We of course welcome Rishi Sunak’s warm statements in the Commons yesterday (Tuesday), and fully appreciate that compensating freelancers for lost income is more administratively difficult than compensating people in large companies, but we will all pay tax on last year’s income which could be fairly easily refunded.
“Paying freelancers will keep large groups of people off our streets and, crucially, out of our tubes, trains and buses.
“It seems that at present, someone on £30,000 a year who is PAYE gets the equivalent of £24,000 a year as a result of corona virus compensation, whereas we will get £4,800 a year (£94 a week).
“Scottish Tourist Guides have already asked the same thing from their government, and we fully support their call. Tourism is one of the most successful sectors of the UK economy.
“Anyway, we do our job as we love showing off how wonderful Britain is to people from both overseas and from our own country,” she concluded.
Danny Parlour, from the London-based Association of Professional Tourist Guides, added “Of course we fully recognise that we live in unprecedented tough times for everyone, including people working hard at the Treasury. We understand from the media that Norway has already set up a compensation scheme for freelancers.”
Elizabeth Eastwood, Chair of the British Guild of Tourist Guides added “Income has always been variable for tourist guides, it was tough during the eighties with all the bombings, but this is far worse. We’ve had cancellations for the last month, and it looks set to continue over the summer when we make most of our income."
British professional Tourist Guides, who spend up to two years gaining their qualifications, are recognised as among the best in the world, and the iconic ‘Blue Badge’ tourist guides have unique guiding access to sites such as Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.
The Institute of Tourist Guides represents nearly 2,000 qualified guides.