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Opening a Tour Operator in Italy

Opening a Tour Operator in Italy

Italian tour guides and tour operators are regulated under the Directive 2005/36/EC regarding professional qualifications. According to the Italian law regulating this business activity, tour operators can obtain their business licenses for developing their activities in a given region of the country where they are registered as businesses or where they have their residence, if they are natural persons. 

Considering that the previous national legislation infringed the EU Directive, the Italian Parliament has passed a new legislation called the European Law No. 97 of 2013 through which the validity of the accreditation of tour operators and tour guides was modified. The law also stipulated that EU citizens, accredited as tour operators, are allowed to provide their services in Italy. Our team of Italian lawyers can provide an extensive presentation on the legislation regulating the activities of tour operators in this country.

Tourism law in Italy

The legislation regulating the tourism industry in Italy was modified in 2011, under the name of Code of Tourism. The Code regulates the tourism sector at national level and complies with all EU requirements. The new Code also provides new and simplified regulations for setting up a travel agency or a tour operator in Italy. The legislation also allows for tighter competition between tour operators in order to increase the quality of services.

Additionally, the Italian legislation also provisions enhanced protection of consumers and establishes incentives for those setting up companies in the tourism industry in ItalyConsidering that until recently tour operators would operate in certain regions only, the Italian Constitutional Court established that tour guides and other professions related to the tourism industry will respect the EU legislation regarding these matters.

Currently, the legislation available for tour operators in Italy is applied with an additional amendment. The law was modified by the Italian Decree no. 62 of 21/05/2018. This new legal step taken by the Italian authorities implemented the EU Directive 2015/2302. Also, it is necessary to know that tour operators comply with the regulations of the Italian Civil Code on matters such as transportation, where applicable. 

Starting with the 1st of July 2018, all EU member states are required to apply new regulations imposed by the EU with regards to the sale of tourism packages to EU citizens. The EU Directive, which can be presented by our team of Italian lawyers, states that the organizers of tourism activities must inform their clients with regards to the detail of their travel package. Such information must be stated in documents that will present all the characteristics of their travel package, associated prices and any additional charges that can be imposed for specific services throughout their holiday

Tour operators are also required to offer very clear rules regarding the liability of the parties in the case in which a misfortunate event takes place. From a EU legal view point, the organizer of the travel package is the entity that must bear full liability. Under the new legislation, parties who have purchased travel packages are allowed to cancel their purchase at any given moment, but they must pay a cancellation fee.  

Obtaining a tour guide certificate in Italy

According to the EU law principles, EU citizens are allowed to apply for various tourism certificates, such as tour manager certificate or tour guide certificates, which can then be used at the level of the entire EU region. The tour manager certificate is issued to EU citizens conducting closed circuit tours only.

The issuance of the tour guide certificate is done only for tour operators in Italy which provide their services to individuals or to group of persons in various touristic venues (museums, monuments, archeological sites and others). If their activity involves dealing with documents and legal formalities, then, the Italian tour operators can apply for a tour manager certificate. In order to become a tour operator in Italy one must pass an exam, which is currently held every two years. 

According to the provisions of the Italian law on tourism, a tour operator or any other entity offering tourism services to local or foreign clients must be qualified in its respective field in order to provide specific tourism services. Companies including in their company name words such as “tour operator”, “tourism agency” and other words depicting tourism services have to be qualified and licensed, according to the Article 18 of the Tourism CodeOur law firm in Italy can present more details on other requirements applicable to the company’s trading name.  

All tour guides in Italy must have a license in order to develop their activity, and this is also applicable for tour managers or tour interpreters. The latter are persons who assist foreign visitors in translating into the visitor’s mother tongue various information throughout their stay in Italy. Tour interpreters also need to be licensed. Provided that a person carries out these activities without a license, the Italian institutions are allowed to charge fines.  

As a general rule, when applying for the exam that will lead to the issuance of the tour guide license, a person must meet specific criteria, such as: have the minimum legal age, hold a certificate showing that the person graduated from secondary school and hold a medical certificate showing that the applicant is in good health. 

It is important to know that if the tour guide provides his or her services in any of the places that are considered cultural heritage buildings or areas or other regions regulated by the decree of the Ministry of Cultural and Activities and Tourism (MiBAC), the tour operators will need additional licenses, that will allow them to offer their services in the respective areas. Tourism in Italy is also regulated by the Directorate General for Tourism

What are the statistics on Italian tour operators?

Tour operators in Italy are better represented in specific areas of the country. The highest number of companies operating as tour operators can be found in the regions of Lazio, Lombardy, Sicily and Tuscany. Persons who are interested in starting an Italian company in these regions can request for legal advice from our team of lawyers in Italy; with regards to the tour operators business sector, the following data is available:

  • in 2016, Lazio was the region with the highest number of tour operator businesses, accounting for 108 entities;
  • the second most important region was Lombardy, with a total of 57 tour operators;
  • Sicily and Tuscany had 49 tour operators each, while Piedmont registered 43;
  • other important regions are as follows: Apulia (30 tour operators), Veneto (25 tour operators), Marche (24 tour operators) and Emilia Romagna (20 tour operators); 
  • at a national level, the tour operators and travel agents registered here employed approximately 55.000 persons. 

Those who are interested in obtaining more details on how to become a tour operator in Italy are invited to contact our Italian law firmOur lawyers in Italy have the necessary expertise in helping businessmen developing their operations in this country, regardless of the field of interest.