Taxi operators in Barbados are hopeful that good fortune will smile on them during the current winter tourist season, even as they report a continuing decline in business.
With more taxis said to be entering the market, fewer locals using taxi services and many visitors opting to take the more affordable public transportation, some Bridgetown-based taxi operators told Barbados TODAY the taxi business has changed tremendously within the last few years.
During the winter tourist season, which runs from late November to April, the Bridgetown Port would welcome up to five cruise ships some days with a total of over 10,000 passengers and crews.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the Bridgetown Port on Thursday a number of taxis and tour buses were observed transporting people in and out of the port on a “busy” day.
However, despite four ships being in the port, taxi operators reported mixed fortunes, as they hoped for a bigger share of the business coming out of the facility.
Andrew, who has been a taxi operator for more than 20 years, said usually the start of the winter tourist cruise season would be “quiet” but from Christmas Eve he would “get a little bit more work”, adding that it depended heavily on the number of ships that were docked.
Like other taxi operators, Andrew said local business has also fallen off due to a number of factors including more people owning a vehicle.
“Most of the times when you get a local it is for a wedding or maybe a funeral. They don’t just take a taxi to go to work or go to an outing,” he said.
“To me because of the number of vehicles, there are so many taxis on the road, you will find that the amount of work you used to get before is not going to be the same,” he added.
He believed newcomers to the profession could become easily discouraged and opt out if business does not get any better.
“A guy that was in it ever since who has his own clientele would survive a lot better because he built up a clientele over many years which is going to continuously call him and give him work. But, like any business it depends on the individuals who are running the business and driving the vehicle,” he said.
There are more than 2,000 registered
taxi operators in Barbados, with approximately 300 operating from the airport, and more than 230 operating from the cruise port as members of the Bridgetown Port Taxi Co-operative Society Ltd (BPTCSL) and the Barbados Transport Co-op Society Ltd.
Raul Alleyne told Barbados TODAY that since the start of the cruise season business has been average for him with some “ups and downs”. However, he said today was a “good” one.
“I can’t speak for everyone because there are people who work in the port and those who work outside the port . . . but I can say with the number of passengers we have anybody who works around the ships today should be able to get a bread,” said Alleyne, who has been in the business for 11 years.
Pointing to the overall taxi business in Barbados, he said there has definitely been a decline.
“The taxi business has declined. I must say that. The number of taxis has increased but the volume of people taking the taxis has decreased,” he said.
“So without the season, taxi business is basically at a standstill. There is nothing going on for them. So if we could get more regional people to come into Barbados when we are out of the cruise season then we can say taxi will continue to grow, but for now it is on the decline in terms of passengers,” he said.
One taxi operator who would only give his name as Trevor, said despite a number of cruise ships in the harbour today, business was not as he imagined it would be.
“Business today is very poor. We got five ships in there today with over 9,000 people and we have cabs who ain’t even get a pull yet. So they will have to come tomorrow and look again,” he said.
“We are expecting a reasonably good season. The people are coming but they are not doing a lot. I don’t know if they are coming on packages but that is how it is looking. We are hoping for the best,” said Trevor.
“The tourists of today are getting to know how to get on the minibuses and ZRs and they go on [social media] and learn a lot of things before they get here,” said the taxi man of over 40 years.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.