The outgoing president of the Bridgetown Port Taxi Co-Op Society Ltd Adrian Bayley has called on the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) to bring proof to back its claims against airport taxi drivers, as he charged that people in the business are not respected or treated well.
An upset Bayley said in an interview with Barbados TODAY that it was “unfair” for the BHTA president Renee Coppin to make allegations about the rates taxi operators were charging without any evidence to support that.
On September 15, during the BHTA’s third quarterly general meeting, Coppin said information had emerged that taxi operators at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) were quoting unsuspecting passengers a variety of rates.
“I had a painful voice message from a family of four returning home recently who had a very negative encounter at the airport with taxi drivers quoting a multiplicity of different rates,” she said at the time.
Bayley charged that there was no legitimacy to the complaint and asserted that Coppin should have investigated the matter thoroughly before she made a public statement.
“The statement went out to the public that they were overcharging people and there are problems with the airport and the price structure. But it is clear that the president of the BHTA had no confirmation about it; there was no proof, no facts, and she did not investigate. There were no facts stating who was the driver or the number of the vehicle. You have to bring some sort of veracity when you are making statements like this about people’s livelihood. It was an unfair statement,” he declared.
From January 7, 2023, for the first time in about 15 years, taxi rates were adjusted upwards, with fares from the GAIA to various locations across the island increasing by an average of 70 per cent.
Bayley stressed that there was a process by which visitors acquired the services of taxi operators at the airport, adding that if an injustice was done, it would be easy to pinpoint the culprit.
“At the airport, since the tariff was revisited by the government after 15 years, you come into Barbados, you come through the departure area, you go to the dispatcher there and you ask for a taxi. The dispatcher writes up a ticket, the ticket states the vehicle number, the amount of people entering the vehicle, the amount of luggage and the destination of the taxi. The price is written on the ticket.
“So for someone to come into Barbados at the Grantley Adams International Airport and say that they were overcharged is a statement that the president of the BHTA should be ashamed of. She has an office where they can be recourse for this. She could have written the taxi organisation there or she could have written to GAIA to investigate why this visitor felt that they were overcharged,” Bayley said.
“So I want to know where is the proof that the visitor was overcharged. If she had gone through the right channels, she could have dealt with the problem and by dealing with it, she could have set the record straight but to come publicly and lambast the guys is unfair.”
Bayley, who was the head of the co-op for the past eight years, said the issue spoke to a greater and systemic problem in the tourism industry – the poor treatment of taxi operators.
“The taxi guys in Barbados are seen as the scum of the earth. We are the frontline people for the industry. We do an excellent job of marketing Barbados and it is clear that the 4 500 operators do it better than any other entity in Barbados because we welcome and interact with visitors on a day-to-day basis. We tell them what they should do on the island, where are the best restaurants, hotels, and 99.9 per cent of us promote Oistins. That is why the numbers at Oistins are so big. We encourage them to even come back to Barbados, but it would appear that nothing good can come out of Nazareth.
“Nobody [doesn’t] seem to want to respect what we do, especially during the heightened phases of COVID-19. The BHTA never came and congratulated anyone. As a matter of fact, I would like the president to tell me when was the last time a taxi operator was given an award or recognised,” the spokesman said.
Bayley contended that there were pressing issues the BHTA should be addressing instead of criticising taxi operators, including complaints from visitors about poor service.
“We are getting complaints about the services being horrible, especially restaurant service. The length of time it takes to even get a drink. A lot of people are also complaining about the linen from some of the hotels.
“The BHTA should take note that people are going online and putting up a nice looking place but when the guest arrives in Barbados and the taxi operator has to take them to that place, it is not as it appears on the internet. This is an area the BHTA should be looking into.
“They know all the registered bed and breakfast places and should be carrying out inspections. Sometimes it comes down to nightmares for the taxi operators because the directions that are given online are not the same as the actual destination and the place the visitors see online is not what the actual place looks like. This is a major challenge because the drivers have to scramble to find someplace of quality for them to stay and be very apologetic,” he charged.
Going forward, Bayley said that the taxi operators would be surveying visitors who conduct business with them, documenting the information and presenting the findings to the BHTA.