Blue Badge Tourist Guides are the official, professional tourist guides of the United Kingdom. They wear a Blue Badge to indicate their professionalism. They are recognised by local tourist bodies throughout the UK, and by Visit Britain  as Britain’s official tourist guides. There are over 2000 Blue Badge guides in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, who guide at Britain's tourist attractions and cities. Some guides run guided walking tours on themes such as Jack the Ripper, Harry Potter and The Beatles. They are responsible for the regular 2012 Summer Olympics walking tours and are the guides for the summertime public tours inside the Houses of Parliament.
The Blue Badge was founded in 1950 by seven guides who met at the George Inn in Southwark.
In 1980, eighty guides formed a union for London Blue Badge guides. The APTG - Association of Professional Tourist Guides - has 470 members.
In 1996, the Scottish Tourist Guides Association was formed as membership association for professional tourist guides, and the accrediting body for Blue Badge and Green Badge Guides in Scotland.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Guide Association was formed in 1992 and is the membership body for guides approved by the Institute of Tourist Guiding.
In 2002 the Institute of Tourist Guiding was formed. It is responsible for the examination and registration of Blue Badge and Green Badge guides in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.
In 2005 Blue Badge guides in England and Wales started offering cycle tours for groups and individuals
When working guides wear the Blue Badge, it bears a symbol identifying the part of the country they are qualified for:
In 2011 there were more than 2000 guides in the UK and around 500 in London. Over 500 of these are in Scotland.
The Institute of Tourist Guiding sets a standard, examines and accredits guides in England. In Scotland, the Scottish Tourist Guides Association (STGA) sets the standards and accredits all the training courses. All Blue Badge guides must pass the Institute's exams or the STGA's exams. They study for up to two years at university level, taking a comprehensive series of written and practical exams which qualify them to become Blue Badge Tourist Guides.
The institute also sets standard for guides to work in foreign languages. There are Blue Badge guides working in most major languages, including French, Italian, Greek, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Polish and Spanish.
As well as the Blue Badge, the Institute of Tourist Guiding oversees further levels of qualification for tourist guides. In Scotland Blue Badge Tourist Guides are national guides, while Green Badge ones are regional. In England, a Green Badge Guide is qualified to work in a specified area such as a city - for example the City of London Guides.
The British Guild of Tourist Guides was founded in London 1950. Originally known as The Guild of Guide Lecturers, the first London guides were trained by the British Travel and Holidays Association to show visitors a capital recovering from the ravages of war; in particular for tourists coming to London in 1951 to visit The Festival of Britain.
In 1995 the Guild changed its name to The Guild of Registered Tour Guides, and in 2015 it became The British Guild of Tourist Guides. The Guild helps tourists and visitors to find guides in the UK.
The Guild is the national membership organisation for trained professional guides in the UK. It has 1,575 guide members throughout the UK and 633 in London. There are 33 languages currently spoken by guide members. All members of the organisation must be fully trained and insured.
The Association of Professional Tourist Guides (APTG) is one of the leading membership organisations actively supporting and promoting Blue Badge Tourist Guides in London. Since its foundation in 1989, it has sought to promote the highest possible standards in tourism in general and guiding in particular.
It expects all members to adhere to a Professional Code of Conduct and works to ensure that the Blue Badge is upheld as a standard of excellence in guiding. It also campaigns on safety issues and lobbies Parliament to raise awareness of issues faced by Blue Badge Tourist Guides and the wider industry.
APTG has over 500 members who between them speak over 30 languages. The organisation supports the ongoing learning and development of members through a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme and provides a wider network through which APTG members can support each other, covering information sharing, best practice and events.
Through its website www.guidelondon.org.uk, it actively promotes the skills and talents of Blue Badge Tourist Guides and provides a range of informative articles and features.
APTG supported the setting up of the Institute of Tourist Guiding and continues to be one of the prime movers in its development. It also plays an active role in the Federation of European Guides and the World Federation of Tourist Guides Association.
The Scottish Tourist Guides Association was created as a Company limited by Guarantee (Company No. SC167477) in 1996 and has a Board of Voluntary Directors, and four professional staff. In addition to the training and accreditation activities, the STGA ensures that all of their guides are fully insured with public liability insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance. They also have a booking service to help clients find a guide to suit their requirements.
Training courses to become a blue badge guide in Scotland take place every two years. Information about the training course can be found here
NITGA was formed in 1992 when the first Blue Badge Guides qualified at Queen's University Belfast. It is a membership organisation of around 85 guides. The association also includes guides with the Irish National Guides Certification – a qualification awarded by Fáilte Ireland, and equivalent to the ITG approved Blue Badge standard.
Blue Badge Guides frequently appear in the media, on television, radio and in newspapers. Many guides are also authors and journalists.