In 2003 some South Island based guides talk about getting together. Jonas Asmussen comes up with the idea of an association for guides and contacts Isabelle Lotscher and Jutta Blank. Isa donates $200 for phone cards to ring other guides and Jutta supplies Jonas with guide's contacts details and suggest to get in touch with New Zealand Tour Driver’s Guild (NZTDG) where Jutta used to be a member.
Jonas Asmussen, ProGuides (PG) founder summarises:
The main point was to create a voice for tourguides that would be heard in the industry - a voice that would represent the interests of guides e.g. in negotiations with inbound operator contractual partners /employers about issues that came up again and again in conversations with colleagues, who felt they were quite powerless as individuals and to create a forum where this voice could find its shape, where people could actually meet, virtually in a discussion forum on the net and in person through conferences, parties and so on.
Personally I thought that a professional body would give us some weight in discussions with other professional bodies and government departments about matters concerning our work like legislation about driving hours, logbooks, DoC concessions, training standards and recognition as a highly skilled profession. In order to gain this weight, I thought it important that we became pro-active by setting membership standards, a Code of Conduct etc. and began to raise our profile by making people aware of what we do and how much we are part of shaping the image of NZ as a destination, but also how much we have to offer in terms of "quality control". It is already part of the job we do for the tour operators, but in my opinion we are in a prime position to provide a coherent picture of the performance of the whole industry in the eyes of our passengers.
I also had some strong views on the current training and qualification regime and how we as the ones with the practical experience could improve it to make it meaningful and actually beneficial for experienced guides as well as new trainees.
I thought in the long term we could convince the powers that be to protect us as a profession by licencing guides, because they would see this also as the best way to protect the interests of NZ as a quality destination. Last year (2010) John Key made it clear that this is not going to happen, but I still think it is a worthy goal, not only to keep competition from overseas guides out, but also to stay in control of how we want to present ourselves to visitors as a destination.