Since 1978, if you took a walking tour in Savannah, Georgia, you knew you were getting the goods: an ordinance passed that year by the city council made it mandatory for all tour guides to pass a short test about elements of the city and its history.
Due to an ongoing legal battle, however, that ordinance is gone with the wind: the Savannah City Council voted on Thursday to ditch the test and let the private sector sort it out. Tour guides in the city no longer need to pass a test to prove their knowledge.
Based on the account by The Associated Press, it sounds like the city council was trying to avoid a headache:
The action came nearly a year after a small group of tour guides filed suit against City Hall in federal court, saying the regulation violates their free-speech rights.
A U.S. District Court judge has yet to rule on the lawsuit. City officials said they decided decisions on tour guide qualifications were best left to the private sector.
Federal courts reached divided opinions in similar lawsuits in Washington and New Orleans.
The city's Tourism Leadership Council is beginning its own training that closely matches industry standards across the country. According to WCJL, the "voluntary course will cover more than history, it will include lessons on laws regarding tourism and tips for customer service."
"We feel that testing of a tour guide to display a modicum of intelligence about the history of our community is important to the quality of or the product we offer our visitors and residents," TLC President Michael Owens said.
Old Town Trolley general manager Charlie Brazil approved of the decision and told WJCL, a local ABC affiliate, that his employees already go through a rigorous training period before they can lead tours. But let's not leave out the possibility that guides in Savannah are now free to give tours without any real knowledge of the city.
I tracked down a sample test that the city provided in its manual for budding tour guides. Honestly, it's pretty tough, as someone who knows nothing about Savannah history and/or architecure. Here's a sampling.
Uuuh…B, B, C? I should really visit Savannah and learn more from one of its knowledgeable tour guides!
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org