by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): While more ships are docking at our shores with the phased reopening of the cruise sector, Taxi and Tour operators have been voicing their complaints about feeling left out of the benefits of this restart.
“Nobody understands what taxi operators are going through. This isn’t a joking matter; this is life and death. People’s vehicles are taken away, people’s mortgages cannot be paid, people’s children cannot be looked after properly; it’s not a joking matter. It’s a serious thing, it brings depression, it brings anxiety, it brings the whole nine yards,” said one called who identified as a taxi operator during the November 8 broadcast of WINN’s Voices.
As a consequence of the pandemic and cruise tourism’s phased restarts, the procedure of the pre-COVID era has been scrapped.
As it stands, independent taxi and tour operators are on rotation for cruise passengers who have not previously booked a pre-approved tour.
In the rotation are over 115 independent taxi and tour operators, and if their services weren’t approved before the call, the only way they get business during a cruise day is if their number is called.
How does the rotation work?
“The rotation process for taxi drivers was created with a database of the fully vaccinated taxi drivers. From that, start in sequential order from one to the total amount. The Tourism Authority then call the drivers in that order; when a rotation ends on the last job, the next day if we are at ten today, we start tomorrow at 11 and that continues until the total number would have been exhausted then start again from one, two, three, down the line again,” said Sylvester “Socrates” Hodge, host of Voices, and taxi operator.
Part of the complaint from those operators is that they are not getting their fair share, citing some bigger businesses, Kantours, the St. Kitts Scenic Railway and Greg’s Safaris, as benefiting the most.
In response to what has been the ongoing issues of tourism stakeholders’ dissatisfaction with the restart of the industry, Socrates also mentioned that the three taxi associations on St. Kitts are in talks to have an amalgamation of the three under one umbrella.
According to Socrates, the taxi associations are trade unions, so in amalgamating, they must do so in accordance with the Trade Union Act.
However, if this does not yield the desired result, Michael Duggins, another taxi operator, suggested alternative action be taken.
“But if we [aren’t] getting [any] results, we take it to another step. Because we can’t just sit back and have discussions, talk on the radio, and nothing happening,” said Duggins during the Voices on November 8.
You can hear the discussion here: