By Kristy Dorsey

A cohort of nearly three dozen have signed on to earn professional tour guide accreditation in what has been hailed as a strong vote of confidence in the Scottish industry’s future after Covid.

The latest Blue Badge Training Programme is just one person shy of its maximum of 36 as the 18-month course gets underway. Run by the Scottish Tourist Guides Association (STGA) in association with City of Glasgow College, the programme has been adapted to ensure appropriate social distancing is always maintained.

Linda Arthur, chair of the STGA, welcomed the latest intake as the industry has an increasing number of older guides heading towards retirement.

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“Covid has, of course, had an effect,” she said. “More guides have indicated that they are considering retiring earlier than they expected to.

“Tourism is a growth industry and will recover from Covid and we are delighted to say that Covid did not deter people from applying and being steadfast in accepting the places we offered.”

One of the new students is Dunblane-based Alan Wright who was working in finance until 2017 when he began to use the Mountain Leader Qualification he attained in 2014. He started guiding walking holidays and by 2018 was operating full-time from April through October.

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“With this introduction to guiding I quickly learned that although I was confident in my own knowledge of Scotland that there was still so much to be learned,” he said. “The Blue Badge course will therefore provide me with this extended knowledge of my own country along with enhanced professional skills to guide in all aspects of Scotland as a tourist destination and to proudly show our visitors what a special country we have.”

Ms Arthur added: “The tourism industry is working together to set industry guidelines which the STGA are leading the way on for our sector. The pull of Scotland for visitors has not diminished and I feel strongly our visitors will return when it is safe to do so.”