Florence’s historical centre is itself a masterpiece. It is rightly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s important we all play a part in safeguarding this precious place.
When searching on the web or browsing social media and even platforms such as TripAdvisor and Airbnb, travelers face a barrage of tourism offers and proposals. Of the millions of visitors to Florence and Tuscany each year, many are unwittingly duped into paying for illegal black-market tourism services.
Tourism is an industry in Florence—it’s a professional activity. There are laws and procedures to guarantee the quality of tourism offers, ensuring consumers’ safety and protecting their best interests. People offering tourism services to the public are required to have the appropriate qualifications and licences as well as having an office open to the public and legally required designated insurances. Unfortunately, a large amount of the offers available on- and offline for Florence and Tuscany are not legal, since they evade Italian and European laws and are misleading and, in many cases, fraudulent.
There is a large black market in tourism in Florence. Misleading advertising—where people omit to state vital information, such as if they are licensed to offer tourism services—is rife. Many people purporting to offer tours and experiences turn a blind eye to the laws, avoiding paying taxes and insurance, and offer an inferior standard for the travel consumer. Not only are individual consumers disadvantaged by misleading advertising, as it’s impossible for illegal operators to have insurance, but the actions of illegal tour providers disadvantage fair ethical operators by flooding the market with shoddy services and undercutting quality.
Fiavet, a national association of tour operators and travel agencies, actively cares for consumers of travel experiences. Fiavet has proudly set standards for high-quality tourism services these last 50 years and continues to do so. Fiavet’s mission is to develop high-quality tourism in Italy, safeguarding the cultural identity of destinations and overseeing and designing respectful ways to visit Italy’s amazing and rich cultural and natural diversity. Tour operators members of Fiavet agree to ethical standards to protect consumers, Italy’s cultural heritage and ecology. One of Fiavet’s goals is to alert authorities and police to illegal tourism practices.
An illegal tour may even be offered by your driving company, concierge, local mum and pop operation, local social media influencers, or even a seemingly harmless expat friend just wanting to “live the dream”. Naïve or ingenuous intentions or being a start-up does not make the service legal or capable of having insurance. If an accident happens, any insurance purported by an illegal operator will not be valid.
Anyone selling their services on social media or online must clearly give you all the information you need to make an informed decision about whether to purchase the services. Omitting to tell you they are not licensed to offer tourism experiences here in Italy is at best misleading advertising and at worst fraud that may lead to loss of your rights. If you see misleading tourism offers and or have purchased services, or have advised others to purchase services and suspect that the provider is operating as an illegal company, make a formal complaint by filling in an online form.
The black tourism market badly damages the local economy. All illegal tour operators are also avoiding local taxes. If you suspect a company, person or association is guilty of fiscal crimes, contact the finance police (Guardia di Finanza).
Don’t hesitate to contact FIAVET (Federazione delle Agenzie di viaggio e Turismo, Federazione regionale Toscana). If you suspect a tour operator, email s[email protected]
Look out for hashtags: #Licencedtouroperator
If you believe in encouraging fair trade and not facilitating unfair consumer practices such as false advertising and fraud, consider choosing a real “Made in Italy”
licensed tour organization. You’ll be safer and will enjoy your time more with a tried, trusted and registered professional operator. FIAVET TUSCANY agents have the necessary skills to play an active role in assisting you. These skills are acquired through continued professional development via training courses, seminars and meetings between professionals.