Development of the guiding service in Dubrovnik

At the time of its independence as a republic, they would most often come there for business reasons related to trade, seafaring, diplomacy or building rather than for those connected to leisure or cultural curiosity. But the protocol, alike today, was imposing a city tour in order to show them some of its beauties. At the time, this role was assumed by «the hosts», benevolent
Once the Republic was abolished, throughout the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, before tourism started to flourish, important persons from literary, artistic and other spheres of cultural life from the country itself and from abroad, started to come to the city, drawn to it by poetic rather than prosaic motives. Besides inevitable politicians and statesmen, we can mention even Croatian Illyrians like I. Trnski, Lj. Gaj, P. Preradovic, I. Kukuljevic and others, as well as the travel writers I. Duringsfeld, O. Reinsberg, A. Fortis, F. Carra, H. Stieglitz, I. Smolle and painters J. Cermak, H. Fischer, R. Svoboda. They were to make the first records on the city and its people and to spread the glory of its incomparable beauty around the world. Local famous people, writers, historians, professors and others on their own or the city representatives’ behalf, courtousely took those mores demanding and interested around.

In the 19th century, the following names are mentioned: Pierko Bunić, Antun Kaznačič, Antun Kazali, Niko and Medo Pucić, Mato Vodopić, Vlaho Gethaldi, Karlo Natali, Rafo Picić, Luko Disak Sorgo, Luko Zore, Lujo Klaić and others. The first half of the 20th century records some new names in this activity, among which Rafo Jani, Josip Podesel, Milorad Medini, Antun Vučetić, Vicko Adamović, Baldo Kosić and others. We should not forget to point out Zvonko Goic, Ivo Pastuovic and others who, at the end of the World War II, represented successfully the history and culture of their town to the literary elite of PEN club writers, while the World Pen congress was being held in Dubrovnik in 1933.

Despite the centuries long practice, there was no evidence found of an act regulating the domain of the tour guiding. Not until 1937 when the first official document was brought, proscribing the conditions one should fulfil to obtain the licence for the guiding of tourists. The document was called «The Code for the Tourist Guiding in the City» and was created by the so-called Regional Council of Dubrovnik. Here are some of its stipulations:
''The person asking for the permission has to prove, during the practical exam in the presence of a commission, the following:
1. the general knowledge of our country’s history and geography, the history of art as well as of the flora and the fauna of the tourist settlement of his interest of work
2. a very good knowledge of historical, artistic, archaeological, ethnographical and other important features of the tourist settlement of his interest of work
3. a very good mastery of the language he is to use to perform the activity of the tourist guide’’

The creation of this Code on 7th of August 1937 went unnoticed in the local newspapers («Hrvatska Dubrava», «Narodna svijest»). It was the weekly “Dubrovnik”, on 21st of August, that mentioned the following in its “Dubrovnik news” column: “The Regional Council issued the regulations for tourist guides. Only those who fulfil them will be allowed to guide tourists in Dubrovnik and its surrounding area.”

The Tourist society did not even mention this Code in its vast annual reports for 1937 and 1938. However, the ''Working committee for the development of tourism on the Adriatic coast'' issued in 1939 the ''Regulation about guides'', prepared according to the principles of Dubrovnik's Code. Even though the Code clearly underlines the need of issuing a licence for both the language and the work area, it is not known that such have been ever handed over. In the context of the political situation in Europe at the time, the forthcoming war and its consequences, it is to suppose that the number of tourist guides in the period running from the thirties to the fifties was not high. The only groups coming to the city at the time were school excursions, workers union's groups, different state, military, sport and other delegations (like Russian Academy of Sciences' delegation in 1946, Parliamentary delegations of Great Britain and Belgium in 1951, Military delegation of the Check Republic in 1947 and Chess Olympics in 1950), and rare tourist groups. These guests, together with the tourists from the first steam ship ''Pace'' in 1951, were handled by a small number of guides, hired mainly by the ''Putnik'' agency (later ''Atlas'').
But nevertheless, «the first tourist guide course» was organised in Dubrovnik in May of 1947, which was to be attended by 34 persons. Due to the post-war crisis and poverty, they will have to wait for happier times to perform their job.
But regardless of the situation, it is important to underline that the first steps of such an important activity were made in Dubrovnik, the town of the century long tradition of hosting and handling visitors. As above mentioned, this activity in the beginning was rather a duty, an honour and therefore, more courteous than lucrative in present day terms. Language wise, it was only after 1951, the year when the first steam ship (''Pace'') entered the port of Gruž, that there increased the need for other languages apart the Croatian.
In the following two decades, in accordance to the growing number of tourists coming, particularly on cruise ships («Oslofjord», Stela Maris», etc.), there will be more regulations brought on the governmental level and tourist guide courses organised by the local Tourist society in order to improve the quality of the service. According to the new Code on tourist guides, brought in 1957 and comprising somewhat changed regulations from 1937; «a tourist guide is a person that professionally shows and explains to tourists natural beauties and rarities, cultural and historical monuments, art works, ethnographical and other objects of interest, historical events and legends about these events and persons as well as social and political and economical achievements of the places and regions».

During the sixties, there were around 40 licensed tourist guides in the town of Dubrovnik and a special section was created within the local Tourist society in order to detect and discuss the problems they were facing and trying to find the best solutions to them. Speaking about its internal functioning, the members organised within a special Committee have achieved important results for the members regarding the benefits from their work, like medical and pension assurances. On the other hand, lectures by different specialists were organized, covering different fields of interest, in order to learn more.

With the stronger wave of tourism in the seventies, guides needed to demonstrate their abilities in front of special commissions. At the beginning, these were formed by the local government in cooperation with the members of tourist organisations, and later by the Tourist society in accordance with the educational services. In the end, this role was taken over by the institutions of higher education, with the approval of Republic’s supervising organs of government. The exam programmes always had a common basis and only some of the contents and subjects were changed (mainly complemented). Today, the course for tourist guides are organised at the University of Dubrovnik and College Apira in Split. One of the main challenges for the guides today are the novelties brought by the work in the EU internal market. Dubrovnik, being one of the towns on UNESCO’s list (from 1979, as decided in Luxor, Egypt) deserves the best possible interpretation.


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Tourist Guides’Association“Dubrovnik“ does not distribute tours to its members. We invite you to take look at our list of guides where you can find all the necessary information about our members....

When to hire a guide?

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