First it was taxi drivers now it is the small beach watersports and recreation operators, who are now claiming that they are being robbed of their share of the tourism pie by the advanced booking systems of large tour companies.
Operators have complained bitterly to Barbados TODAY that the tour companies, who transport the bulk of cruise ship passengers, by-pass their businesses, taking their passengers to three major players in the sector.
“Right now, it is so unfair to us because we don’t get a crumb. I have invested quite a lot in a lot of fun beach equipment and it is only because I post things on Facebook and word of mouth from persons who go back and tell their friends, that I am able to continue this business. From my understanding, the tour company plans the stops in advance and none of the small beach business are included,” said watersport owner Neilroy Cave who operates his watersport business at Paynes Bay.
Another operator, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity, added, “I have tried to get on the tour schedule with some of these companies, but I keep getting the run around. What we offer is as good as anything Copacabana, Boat Yard or any of bigger guys in the business.
However, a source at one of the major tour companies told Barbados TODAY that getting onto to tour schedules was not as simple as these businesses were making it out to be. The company official explained that while they endeavor to include as many attractions as possible, some of these businesses fail to meet the standards of the cruise companies.
“We do our best to incorporate as many attractions as possible. On the west coast most of the major attractions are included. People come to us all of the time asking to be on our schedule and we would send someone to their location to assess the attraction. But the reality is that the cruise sector demands that our tours are fully insured, and this means that the attractions we take our guests to must be insured as well. Many of the small watersport attractions can’t afford this,” the source said.
In recent years taxi operators at the seaport have complained that tour companies have been drastically cutting into their business. Last May, President of the Bridgetown Port Taxi Co-Op Society Ltd Adrian Bayley lamented taxi operators that operators were receiving 20 per cent of the business from cruise arrivals, leaving them at a disadvantage.
“They have cut into a large proportion of our work. These coaches are directly involved in day-to-day tours of Barbados [and] they are still doing the transfers to and from the airport,” Bayley said.
He noted that in 2003 the percentage of coaches to taxi operators providing transportation services was 60:40, however, it dramatically changed with coaches providing 80 per cent of the transportation services at the seaport and airport.
He stated that the unfair divide has resulted in intense competition between members and non-members of the association and taxi operators offering innovative tour packages to visitors.
“We created a basic niche where we would have offered ten passengers or 15 passengers in a ZM vehicle to do an island tour, shopping, and beach,” Bayley revealed.
However, water sport operators are also pointing the accusing finger at the taxis, telling Barbados TODAY that the taxis were also taking their passengers to the larger beach businesses.
“These taxis are getting cut out by bigger businesses but instead of joining together with their fellow sufferers, they take the passengers that they manage to get to the same big businesses that don’t care about their survival. They [leave] out the small man, who suffering just like them, because the big beach places giving them free food and drinks whenever they bring passengers,” said Cave.
He further stressed, “This is the reason that we can’t get anywhere as small businesses because we have no idea how to work together.