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Home* News and Stories → Nor­we­gi­an government wants to dis­cuss cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on requi­re­ments for gui­des

Nor­we­gi­an government wants to dis­cuss cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on requi­re­ments for gui­des

The dis­cus­sion about for­mal requi­re­ments for gui­des is not new, but it has now got a signi­fi­cant boost as the Nor­we­gi­an government has decla­red a need for this dis­cus­sion.

“Gui­de” is, so far, not a for­mal­ly qua­li­fied pro­fes­si­on. The­re are efforts, pri­va­te and indus­try-based, to intro­du­ce cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on for gui­des, but until now, basi­cal­ly ever­y­bo­dy can come, claim to be a gui­de and try to find work. This has actual­ly worked well over many years as a limi­ted num­ber of tou­rists was met by an also limi­ted but suf­fi­ci­ent­ly lar­ge num­ber of gui­des who were enthu­si­asts of the out­doors and had, as such, built up suf­fi­ci­ent know­ledge, skills and expe­ri­ence to lead tou­rists in arc­tic natu­re, sum­mer or win­ter, by ski, dog sledge, snow mobi­le, boat, ship, hiking, wha­te­ver.

But times have chan­ged. Recent years have seen a num­ber of new com­pa­nies who want their share of the tou­rism mar­ket in the Arc­tic, often in the attrac­ti­ve day trip mar­ket in Longyearbyen’s sur­roun­dings. A “mar­ket”: that’s what it is now, a mar­ket with a huge tur­no­ver whe­re a lot of money is made by some. Not a niche any­mo­re whe­re a limi­ted num­ber of enthu­si­asts find their way of life with a lot of per­so­nal idea­lism and effort. Of cour­se they still exist, but the total pic­tu­re is by now far more com­plex.

The grown and still gro­wing mar­ket implies an incre­a­sed need for gui­des, and it is not just a few obser­vers who are not always satis­fied with the level of know­ledge, expe­ri­ence and skill that they see.

Tourists with guides: snow mobile group, Colesdalen

Tou­rist group with gui­de in Cole­s­da­len: gui­de is, so far, an open pro­fes­si­on.

This is not just annoy­ing, but may also be dan­ge­rous. In Spits­ber­gen, gui­des hand­le wea­pons, boats, snow mobi­les and dog sled­ges on a regu­lar basis, they deal with arc­tic wea­ther, have to expect mee­ting a polar bear at any time in the field and take respon­si­bi­li­ty for the safe­ty of peop­le in the­se con­di­ti­ons. Addi­tio­nal­ly, gui­des are a key fac­tor when it comes to envi­ron­men­tal issu­es. It is ful­ly pos­si­ble to visit cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge sites, obser­ve wild­life and walk in the natu­re without des­troy­ing or dis­tur­bing anything, but the oppo­si­te may also hap­pen and com­pe­tent lea­ders­hip out in the field is key in this con­text.

Seen in this light, one may won­der why cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on requi­re­ments for gui­des have not alrea­dy been intro­du­ced a long time ago, also as an alter­na­ti­ve to clo­sing sites and even lar­ge are­as, as was dis­cus­sed no less than a good 10 years ago. Even the local indus­try sec­tor orga­ni­sa­ti­on Visit Sval­bard has now expres­sed them­sel­ves posi­tively towards this issue – of cour­se expec­ting to be part of such a pro­cess. Ever­y­bo­dy in the busi­ness knows that for examp­le a serious acci­dents would do harm not only to tho­se direct­ly invol­ved but to the who­le indus­try if it turns out that lack of qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on on behalf of the gui­des was a fac­tor.

Safe­ty and envi­ron­men­tal mat­ters are issu­es that local gui­des have also been awa­re of for qui­te a while, accord­ing to the Sval­bard Gui­de Asso­cia­ti­on. And of cour­se “old” gui­des with years of solid expe­ri­ence are not always hap­py when young col­leages without rele­vant expe­ri­ence and skills come and take their jobs, an issue that is rele­vant not only for envi­ron­men­tal and safe­ty con­cerns but also when it comes to working con­di­ti­ons in the indus­try.

Spitsbergen’s gla­cier will, howe­ver, pro­bab­ly still lose a good bit of ice until requi­re­ments for gui­de cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on has been for­ma­li­sed on a legal level: The Nor­we­gi­an government’s recent press release just indi­ca­ted a need to dis­cuss the issue. The­re are still a lot of prac­ti­cal ques­ti­ons to be ans­we­red regar­ding the qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on and cer­ti­fac­tion pro­cess.

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last modification: 2020-01-16 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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