Taxi drivers who operate from the Bridgetown Port are upbeat about prospects of a continued partnership with new management of Harrison’s Cave, Chukka Caribbean Adventures.
In fact, the two associations representing the approximately 280 registered taxi operators told Barbados TODAY they could only imagine added value for the country and increased business for them, based on the plans for the attraction.
This comes a day after Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley called for more explanation about the terms and conditions of the 25-year lease of Harrison’s Cave to the Jamaica-based adventure tour operator, while questioning whether the business model would disadvantage taxi operators and other small businesses.
In addition to pre-booked coaches, taxi operators based at the Bridgetown Port are some of the most popular transportation providers for cruise visitors to the St Thomas attraction.
They had an agreement in place with the former managers of the cave – Caves of Barbados – to transport cruise passengers there, and during a meeting with the new owners on Thursday, the taxi operators were assured of a continued relationship.
President of the Independent Seaport Taxi Union Anthony Eastmond told Barbados TODAY he was pleased that Chukka representatives met with taxi operators and outlined the plans they have for Harrison’s Cave.
Stating that the company was hoping to increase the number of people visiting the attraction, Eastmond said, “what they will be doing is seeking to add value to the cave”.
“Chukka is not involved in transportation and they made that very clear to us. For all of its operations in the other islands they have partners. So, what I think Chukka will be doing is partnering with the taxi operators,” he added.
In fact, Eastmond said he believed there would be increased business for taxi operators and added revenue and value to the country.
“I think that Chukka is an added value for Barbadians and the country as a whole, where locals will be able to participate; and two, added value . . . in [terms] of tourists visiting. They will be bringing value to the island and will be partnering with the taxi operators because they said they usually partner with the transportation operators. So we see ourselves as stakeholders,” he said.
Chukka, which operates more than 60 tours in Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos, will commence management of Harrison’s Cave on December 1.
President of the Bridgetown Port Taxi Co-op Society Ltd. Adrian Bayley told Barbados TODAY his association was also pleased to have met with Chukka officials and hear of plans on the cards for Harrison’s Cave.
Stating that Thursday’s meeting “went quite well”, Bayley said, “they clearly outlined to us they are not involved in taxis or anything like that”.
About 65 per cent of the business to Harrison’s Cave is said to come from cruise ship passengers.
Bayley said while taxi operators would not be able to stop any pre-booked tours, visitors who do things on their own were generally encouraged to use taxis.
“That is how we make our money,” said Bayley.
“We really appreciate how Caves of Barbados, Chief Executive Officer of Chukka Caribbean Marc [Melville] and the Minister of Tourism [Senator Lisa Cummins] reached out to us as one of the partners involved in moving people to the Harrison’s Cave.”
Stating that a relationship has been in place for the past two years between his association and Caves of Barbados, Bayley said he also left the meeting with the understanding that would continue with the new operators.
“At this moment, there is nothing we can complain about,” Bayley said.
“The cruise industry is still down, but I can assure you that when it starts again if I find we are being marginalised, then you will hear from us.”