Our Tour Guides
- 60th Anniversary of the United Nations Tour Guides
- About the Guides
- Did you know?
- About the uniforms
The United Nations tour guides are called the United Nations Ambassadors to the public, because of their direct contact with the people who visit the Organization every day. The guides play a pivotal role in shaping people's perceptions of the work of the United Nations. They are young people, from all over the world with different backgrounds, who share a common interest in international issues.
Throughout the year, the guides are briefed every morning on the latest developments regarding the work of the Organization in order to keep their presentations current. The guides are briefed on a regular basis by United Nations staff members who are experts in their fields and provide an in-depth view on such topics as landmines, children and armed conflict and global warming, among others.
Every day the United Nations guides enrich their own experience by meeting groups of people as varied as 6th-graders from the Bronx, Yanomani people from the Brazilian Amazon, West Point Cadets, Girl Scouts and New Zealand cattle breeders.
Guided tours of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City have been offered to the general public since November 1952.
Before the United Nations opened its doors in New York City, guided tours were conducted by volunteers at Lake Success, New York, the temporary home of the United Nations from 1946 to 1951.
The first corps of 10 guides was hired by the American Association for the United Nations, which ran the tour operation until 1955, when guided tours were incorporated into the United Nations Office of Public Information. The United Nations buildings were, at that time, a new addition to the New York City skyline, and had quickly become one of the city's most popular attractions, alongside the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center. Since 1952, approximately 39 million visitors have taken the tour. The traffic on the tour route reached its peak in 1964 with over 1.2 million visitors. The attendance now fluctuates around 1 million visitors a year, with May usually being the busiest month due to the large number of school groups.
Most uniforms worn by the United Nations tour guides have been provided by internationally renowned designers. The uniforms worn by flight attendants in the 1950s inspired the first uniform, a tailored suit. That was the only time when a hat was part of the United Nations guides outfit, as well as epaulettes. The conservative style remained until 1969, when Evan Picone created a two-colour scheme and a miniskirt.
In 1977, Hollywood designer Edith Head donated a new design, consisting of a skirt and a jacket in the recognizable blue colour of the United Nations with navy trim, and a scarf adorned with the Organization's emblem.
In 1982, a conservative style navy blue suit with a sash was introduced by French designer Christian Dior. Three years later, American designer Harvé Benard created a tailored navy uniform.
The Italian fashion house Benetton, in 1988, designed and donated a new uniform, a departure from past styles, with a lightweight wool suit in black and white houndstooth check pattern combined with a royal blue knit top.
In 1995, the United Nations bought the navy blue Executive Model from Jones New York. This classic suit was complemented with a yellow short-sleeve top and a scarf with the United Nations emblem.
In 2001, the uniforms, designed and provided by the Italian fashion house Mondrian, combine classic elegance with versatility and comfort. The tailored navy blue suits for women and men are matched with light-blue blouses or shirts and a scarf or tie adorned with the United Nations emblem. For the first time, a maternity outfit is included in the line. Also for the first time, shoes, provided by the Italian footwear company Valleverde, complement the uniforms. The shoes come from the company's classic line and meet all the requirements for comfort and style.
As an alternative to the uniform, the guides can also wear their national dress, thus adding colour and diversity to the look of the guided tour operation.