(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Guides leading tours without proper registration are now liable to a NIS 3,000 penalty.
A few months ago, the Tourism Ministry selected a group of employees to serve as special inspectors. They and Israel Police officers are to look for nonlicensed guides at historical landmarks and popular tourist spots.
Industry professionals have noticed a rise in unlicensed operators, and are optimistic that the fine will deter them from guiding tourists.
"We hope this decision will be applied vigorously by the ministry," Roby
Harly, managing director of Israel Tour Guides Association, said on Sunday. "This should be one of many steps taken in order to help the tour guides in Israel who are looking for work."
A two-year course is required to gain a license, which must be renewed every two years. An additional class is necessary every year, to stay current on events and information.
Nomi Appel-Havi, a licensed tour guide based in Tel Aviv, has been growing frustrated with the number of unlicensed guides she encounters at sites across the country - especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.
"Can a teacher teach without a license?" she asked.
"If everyone can guide without a license, then I don't want to pay the renewal fee for my license and don't want to be forced to take this two-year course, which is costly. We have a profession that is so-called licensed, but it is not enforced."
The operations of the tax and inspection team is the best way to discover fraudulent guides, according to Rafi Ben-Hur, the Tourism Ministry's senior deputy director-general. It is unacceptable that there are guides giving unofficial tours, he said, since information not 100 percent accurate could be spread about the country and its history.