Knesset Committee Approves: Tour Guides Will Be Exempt From Paying Fees in 2021

Shas MK Rabbi Yaakov Margi. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by MK Rabbi Yaakov Margi (Shas), approved on Monday the Tourism Services Regulations that pertain to tour guides. The regulations were submitted by the Tourism Ministry in order to assist tour guides, who have suffered financially due to the corona pandemic.

Keren Goldman, head of the Tourism Ministry’s Vocational Tourism Training Division, explained that tour guides are currently obligated to renew their license every two years, at a cost of NIS 263, and take part in two training programs that cost NIS 80-200 each. According to the proposal, tour guides will not pay the fee in 2021 and their licenses will be extended automatically. In 2022 they will pay half the license renewal fee. Training courses for 2019-2020 will be completed in 2021.

MK Iman Khatib-Yasin (Joint List) said she supports the regulations as the “minimal assistance the state has to provide to the tour guides.” MK Evgeny Sova (Yisrael Beytenu) said the assistance is “beneath the minimum” and asked whether there are additional plans to help tour guides, 8,000 of whom have been left without work. Goldman said in response that the Tourism Ministry, in cooperation with the Education Ministry, has initiated professional retraining programs for tour guides who have a university degree. Two hundred scholarships have been earmarked for this initiative, she said, adding that 75 tour guides are currently working as teacher aides in elementary-grade classes.

A representative of Moreshet Derech – Israel Incoming Tour Guides Association said the regulations are insufficient and that tour guides are finding it difficult to work in the education system due to the prerequisites for entering the retraining program. Committee Chairman Rabbi Margi said the committee would examine ways to provide additional assistance to tour guides.

Tour guide Yechezkel Greenberg said tour guides should be exempt from all payments until the tourism industry recovers. “It is unrealistic to demand payment for something that is not in use,” he argued. Committee Chairman MK Rabbi Margi and MK Sova agreed with Greenberg. The committee then unanimously approved the regulations.

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