Port officials have pointed to a lack of capacity at the Bridgetown Port as the main reason preventing more taxi operators from getting a slice of the cruise tourism business there.
Additionally, Chairman of the Bridgetown Port Senator Lisa Cummins pointed out that the number of passengers the more than 250 taxi operators were competing for was miniscule, since most cruise passengers purchased tours before reaching these shores.
However, addressing a town hall meeting held on Wednesday night at the Alexandra School in St Peter to discuss plans for a cruise facility in Speightstown, Cummins gave the assurance that a new business model was being worked on to help more Bridgetown taxi operators get business from cruise ships.
She pointed out that only about 50 of the approximately 255 licensed port taxi operators were allowed in the port at any one time.
“We don’t have the capacity necessarily to absorb all the taxis,” she said.
In addition to the port taxi operators, often times those operating in The City express the need to be able to access the facility, Cummins noted.
However, she stressed that “there is a capacity issue. It is that while everyone wants to get into the port the port can’t absorb all of them”.
Cummins said meetings between the Ministry of Tourism, representatives from the taxi associations and tourism officials have already taken place and a pilot project has been launched, which would give taxi operators an opportunity to get more business from the port when there are cruise ships in.
“What that project allows us to do is to work with the small operators within the port to create bespoke tours that they have been trained for under the leadership of the BTMI [Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.], and we are currently running a pilot of 30 taxis to allow them a share of the business,” said Cummins.
She said that, currently, only about five per cent of the business goes to the hundreds of taxi operators.
“It is a small slice, not a cut, of passengers that are buying spontaneous tours after they have disembarked the vessel. That is what the taxis are competing for. So what we have been working with them on is to develop a business model that allows them to sell their tours before those passengers disembark,” Cummins explained.
She also pointed out that the small
operators doing business with the cruise operators required insurance costing about $15,000.
“They necessarily can’t support that so we have done it for the first year and we are working with those smaller business people to help them develop a business model that works,” she assured.
Meanwhile, surfer Sam Taylor, who said he made most of his earnings from the tourists the taxi drivers brought to him, said he could attest they were really struggling for business.
Suggesting that there was need for better organization of how they got business, he described the current situation as “madness”.
Taylor warned officials that as they sought to develop a cruise facility in Speightstown they should be careful not to allow unauthorized people to force out legitimate ones.
“The flat-footers that are running through the streets hustling people that are selling all kinds of products that are not available on the open market openly, in front of NCC, in front of the police…it is open madness. Now, Speightstown is a very special, sacred space at this time. It would be a shame for it to be ruined by too many people, and it looks like you are entering into that direction,” he said.
However, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey gave the assurance that ministry officials have been meeting with industry stakeholders and several measures were being developed to help tackle the issues.
“The issue with the flat-footers, we have been having meetings with a number of persons who are in the industry and this issue keeps resurfacing – that we need to find a way to handle this. We are working on it and I suspect that in a near conversation you will hear the plans the Government has, to not only manage that but a number of other issues as it relates to small craft and other things associated with the sea,” said Humphrey.
In recent times, the Minister has indicated that new legislation would be developed to help deal with some issues relating to operating along the island’s beaches and at sea.