“We are ambassadors of the country to tourists from all over the world and this is how they repay us? Replaced by a machine,” said Rafael Montes, spokesman for the eighteen guides.
Cartagena‘s Society of Public Improvements (SMP) and tourism company Tierra Magna are behind the new audio guides, which will be available in Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, and soon in Portuguese.
Dilson de la Rosa Ahumada, who has been taking tourists around the site for 40 years, took the tour guides’ plight to the Cartagena Municipal Court, where he argued the new machines had an unfair advantage over their human competitors.
De la Rosa Ahumada told the judge that, while the audio guides enjoyed an advertisement on entry tickets to the site, the tour guides are not publicized at the fort’s entrance.
The judge ruled to uphold the guides’ right to decent work and ordered the SMP to provide equal promotion to both human and machine, so that tourists can weigh up the options before making a decision.
“The visitor must choose the medium that is most convenient to receive information from the monument and make the relevant tour,” the ruling said.
SMP challenged the court’s decision, saying that it never intended to replace the tour guides, but simply wanted to give tourists an extra service, one which is available in other parts of the world.
“Cartagena has to move forward with high-class tourist services and audio guides which are common in monuments and museums around the world,” said SMP chief executive, Claudia Fadul.
The Cartagena fort, commonly referred to as Castilla de San Felipe de Barajas, was commissioned by the Spanish Crown and built between 1639 and 1789 to protect the city from marauding pirates.
The fort received 250,000 visitors in 2009 and is one of the main attractions of the well-preserved colonial city.