Offering tours without a guide is illegal and travel agencies face legal action if any complaints are filed against them, asserted a senior tourism official.
“Although the presence of a licensed tour guide is repeatedly emphasized as a must, especially in the case of tours for foreign tourists, travel agencies sometimes ignore the directives,” said Vali Teymouri, the head of the Office for Monitoring and Assessment of Tourism Services at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.
Speaking to ISNA, Teymouri explained that tour packages must have a guide and a leader who handle different jobs.
A tour guide is a licensed individual who specializes in the history, art and architecture of one or several provinces. He or she has in-depth knowledge about the visiting region and its attractions.
On the other hand, a tour leader has a more practical role, deals with the planning and organization of a tour. He is the person who escorts travelers, arranges meeting times and places, coordinates with museums, restaurants and the driver, as well as with the tour guide.
The tour leader should have a good general knowledge of the region, particularly from a cultural viewpoint. To put it simply, a tour leader is there to ensure tourists get what they paid for.
Speaking about inbound tours, Teymouri said foreign travelers find it difficult to go around Iran and receive information without an Iranian guide.
“Often, a tour leader accompanies the group from the source country and the guide joins them at the destination,” he added.
The official said travel agencies that pass off a tour leader as a guide do so for financial reasons.
“There’s clearly a financial incentive, but it’s illegal,” he said. “This affects the quality of the tour, because it is difficult for one person to explain the history of a place while ensuring the wellbeing of every single tourist in the group.”