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Freedom of Speech Issue or Credibility for Company? Beaufort SC Tour Guides on Licensing

Should tour guides be licensed to tell stories? The answer is under debate in Charleston, as a federal judge considers the lawsuit filed by would-be tourists who failed to pass a history test required under city ordinance. But what about Beaufort? Tour guides remark on whether they feel licensing for their business is infringement of First Amendment rights. Those NEWS 3 spoke with say it’s a matter of credibility, a good thing for them, rather than a freedom of speech issue.

Each tour guide who leads a horse-drawn carriage tour for visitor in Beaufort, SC must pass a written test and be licensed before they speak to the guests for business. Every word has been tested for accuracy, Sea Island Carriage Company owner Nichole Myers says.

“Dates, names of the homes, the people who founded Beaufort…it goes pretty in-depth. It’s a 100 question test that we have here,” Myers says.

The city test is 100 questions, which each tour guide must pass by 80% in order to be licensed. Under the Beaufort ordinance, there are other regulations as well, such the prohibition or revealing certain information of residents who live along the tour’s route.

Myers says she is glad her guides are regulated. She says it gives the company credibility.

“It’s supposed to offer the facts, and that’s what we do, what we try our best to do. I know what my guides are telling the tourists that are coming here,” she says.

Myers doesn’t believe the mandate limits free speech, as some in Charleston believe.

“The city, or the government, doesn’t gt to tell you what you can and can’t say,” lawsuit plaintiff Michael Nolan told NBC Charleston in January.

Myers believes it keeps guides from giving false information.

“Beaufort has enough history that we don’t need to tell stories or create history. We should be giving the accurate information,” she says.

“We know that our tours are going to be professional. We know that they’re going to give consistent messages about the history of this beautiful historic destination that we have here in Beaufort,” Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Blakely Williams says.

“People will ask, ‘Oh, is it just stories or where do you get your information?'” Myers says.

The City of Beaufort is currently updating the manual guides must study in order to take the test, in order to make the test even more extensive.


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