Hotels, Tourism questionable on taxi issue

Taxi drivers were disgruntled and felt disrespected when it became obvious that a goodly number of tourists were being bussed to the downtown Junkanoo site on New Year’s Day.

It was an odd situation and the drivers complained bitterly. Their outrage is understandable. The drivers yearn for the periods when high amounts of visitors are on island. Ordinarily, during slow months, they tough it out, making do with sometimes as little as one job per day. So, when there is a flow of tourists who want to move about the island, rightly so, the taxi drivers should figure significantly in the mix.

A strange case resulted in two hotels communicating with the Ministry of Tourism, requesting transportation to take in-house guests to and from Junkanoo. That’s quite odd, when as a rule, taxi drivers are on hand at hotels for the very purpose of being available for transporting tourists to their destination of choices and then, subsequently returning them to their respective vacation resident.

GB Tourism Director Karen Seymour did not shy away from the controversy. She accepted the criticisms of the taxi drivers. It should be pointed out though, that Tourism should have checked out the situation to see whether the two bus movements authorized, were in fact necessary.

Did anyone from Tourism, speak with the Taxi Union to get a proper idea as to whether sufficient taxi drivers were in place to provide the full service?

Very likely, this is where Tourism fell down. Perhaps the requests by the hotels were done in innocence. Tourism officials though, should have a greater command of the hospitality territory and the players. If some thought had gone into the matter, the conclusion no doubt would have been to network with the taxi drivers first before sending busses onto their turf.

Seymour did inform that the intent was for the bus service to be limited. She insisted, according to a Freeport News article that “there was more than enough business for all transportation companies.”

Judging by the complaints made by the taxi drivers, Seymour’s position is quite debatable.

The suggestion we put forth to Tourism, is to examine like situations thoroughly before taking the risk of infringing on the rights of any of the hospitality entities. The taxi drivers said that Tourism took “bread out of their mouths” and that’s not acceptable.

“I pay tax, but this is not what I want the government to do with my money.  I do not want them to take from me, when I could have an opportunity on the first day (of the New Year) to make some income,” said one driver.

He has a point and hopefully, going forward, Seymour and her colleagues would wrap their heads around all of the factors and avoid offending anyone or any group from the service industry.

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