Officials at the Bridgetown Port Inc. are working tirelessly to create a more “inclusive” model that gives taxi operators and larger tour companies a more equitable slice of the proverbial pie.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey made that pledge as he announced an imminent uptick in arrivals over the summer months and a surge in cruise ship traffic during the winter season.
Among the vessels expected to call on the Port of Bridgetown are the Seabourn Odyssey, which is scheduled to homeport here while carrying out 7-day expeditions, as well as the Crystal Symphony as part of a 10-day cruise.
Humphrey added that already, winter season bookings are becoming “more frequent” and “more intense”.
“In the 2021/2022 season, we are looking at P&O Cruises, we are looking at Marella Cruises, TUI Group, AIDA cruises, all expected to be here, and we have a massive homeport with Royal Caribbean International as part of the winter season,” the Minister told Barbados TODAY.
“So, we don’t anticipate that our numbers will be 900 000 as they were in 2019, but we anticipate that our numbers will be significant,” he added.
Humphrey declared that sometime during this summer or the coming winter, taxi operators would be given much-needed tools to offer their services to tourists as a collective.
“I’ve said before and I’m saying again, that as we expand and reopen tourism it has to be a much more inclusive model. The taxi operators have to get a larger share of the pie,” he said.
“Traditionally, many of these cruise tours are booked onboard the cruise ship before they even get to Barbados and the taxi operators don’t get the benefit.
“So we’ve been working in the Bridgetown Port with the taxi operators to help them develop themselves and be able to form a collective, whereby they can offer those cruises as well and have them offered onboard the ship, so they can have a bigger piece of the pie. That includes the jet ski operators, the vendors and so on, so that as we bounce back, we bounce forward and have a much more inclusive model that lends itself not only to the development of the industry, but also to the people in the industry as well,” the Minister added.
As Barbados welcomed its first cruise ship passengers aboard the Celebrity Millennium on Monday, it was evident that traditional taxi operators were not as engaged as large bus companies.
Humphrey, however, explained this was only in an attempt to maintain a “tight bubble” until taxis are included on the cruise ship itineraries.
“There is an app that we are developing, for the taxi operators, which we are hoping to have finalized as well and that will be onboard the vessel. Certainly, if we are not able to finalize it by summer, we will have it in line for the winter season,” he promised.
“But we have spoken as well to the larger tour operators in Barbados and we have said to them that you need to include as part of your own build-out, some of our taxi operators, BT drivers and so on, and with all respect to them, they have done so. So, we just need to be able to do so gradually.
“I will not be able to sleep with myself if we are unable to build out some of the inefficiencies, inequalities and inequities that plague tourism. Ordinary people were not the traditional benefactors and now they must be the beneficiaries as they go forward,” Minister Humphrey declared.