Professionalism in mountain tourism and the claims to professional status of the International Mountain Leader

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Mountain Guides and International Mountain Leaders (IMLs) have achieved cross-border recognition of their professional awards. This allows them to work internationally and provides a rare example of an established, state-sanctioned and respected professional group operating within the tourism industry. As it grows, this industry is increasingly looking to elements of professionalism to provide education and training programmes with the status and credibility that can sustain both industry development and public confidence. The case for professionalism amongst IMLs is examined through an in-depth study of the French and British award schemes. Despite their very different origins, histories and cultures, both schemes train and assess candidates for the IML award and have been selected here because they are the largest and oldest of their kind. This comparative study's focus on the structural elements of these two schemes allows certain aspects of the IML's claim to professional status to be evaluated. First, a framework outlining the defining features of professionalism is explicated. This framework is then used as an analytical tool to evaluate the degree to which the French and British IML schemes can be considered professional. This study concludes that the international accreditation of standards within the field of Mountain Leading, together with the monopolisation of key practices and bodies of knowledge, have contributed to the professionalisation of this area of tourism. There remains much scope, however, for the profession to develop effective and meaningful deontological codes and disciplinary procedures that can further uphold professional standards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-215
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Sport and Tourism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2014


  • International Mountain Leader, Mountain Guides, mountain professionals, mountain tourism, professionalism
  • professionalism

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