Crackdown spells the end of ‘free’ walking tours where the guides force you to tip

Tour guides who tell people their trips are “free” and then pressure them to give tips could see their adverts banned under a new crackdown by advertising watchdogs.

The Advertising Standards Authority said it has received a rise in complaints about walking tour guides asking consumers for discretionary payments at the end of tours, despite them being advertised as “free”. 

The complainants also felt overly pressurized into making such a payment, the ASA said.

It comes as Britain is enjoying a tourism boom as a result of a rise in tourism from foreign countries, as well as British families choosing “staycations” over holidays abroad.  

This week the tour guide industry was told to end bad practice and adhere to new, stricter guidance laid out by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the ASA’s sister body.

The new guidance informs advertisers that to avoid breaking the advertising rules and potentially having their adverts banned, they should only advertise their tour as “free” if the tour is provided with no mandatory cost to the consumer, upfront or otherwise.

They must also prominently state in their advertising the fact guides will be inviting discretionary payments during the tour if this is the case. In addition they are asked to make clear that discretionary payments are entirely voluntary, and that discretionary payments are not kept in full by the guide, if this is the case. 

Chief Executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, said: “It’s great that some walking tours are provided free of charge, allowing people to enjoy local sights irrespective of their budget. But while some people will expect to be asked to tip guides on such tours, others might be taken by surprise and put under pressure. Our new guidance will help tackle that, giving walking tours the opportunity to be upfront about their paying or tipping practices, whilst also ensuring a level playing field.”

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