By Orville Williams
Since the government made some adjustments to the fare structure for taxi operators last month, the head of one taxi company says there is a visible change, while acknowledging that some people still object to the move.
Following the changes, the previous norm that would see a single fare being applied to a full load of four passengers has been abandoned in favour of a more “logical” stance where the fare is determined by the number of passengers being transported.
The changes also took into account the reduction in the number of passengers that can be transported during the Covid-19 pandemic (two), due to the need for social distancing.
President of the United Taxi Company, Ian Joseph, was one of the more vocal advocates for the adjustments, which they say have been years in the making.
He told Observer yesterday that his drivers are much more enthusiastic these days and are satisfied with the results of the deliberations, even though it took so long.
“We must say thanks to the government for getting this sorted out, so we can have some equity [and] get a fair share for a fair day’s work, [but] so far, we have been getting some pushback.
“You know how it is when justice is served; the oppressors always feel like the victims. We’ve been getting pushback from some of the tour operators, but we’ve got to stand by what the government [has said] and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Joseph said.
He also commented on the increased visitor arrivals that have been projected for the summer through to December.
United Taxi is based at the VC Bird International Airport, meaning they have been some of the worst affected by the pandemic and the resultant decline in tourist arrivals.
Joseph said, however, things are looking much better than they did last year.
“The numbers are ramping up; we’re seeing it. We are seeing more flights and the numbers on the flights are ramping up.
“I think what is happening worldwide is the people have been ‘under arrest’ by this virus for so long that now there’s an escape, everybody’s just taking advantage of that situation. I think coupled with where we stand now on the CDC rating, we’re in a good position.”
The USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently relaxed its travel advice for Antigua and Barbuda to level one, equating to a low risk of Covid.
The government has also gotten a commitment from many of the players within the tourism sector – including the taxi operators – that they will be vaccinated. Joseph reiterated that the majority of his members have taken a vaccine, with a small number yet to make that decision.
“The guests [were] already asking if we’re vaccinated and most of the members in [my company] are vaccinated. We have a few who are not yet … some just don’t want to take this vaccine and I think some maybe don’t want to take a vaccine at all.
“The most we can do is encourage [them]; I can’t force anybody to take a vaccine if they don’t want to take it, but I will encourage the members and everybody [else] to follow the scientists and let’s get vaccinated and get the country reopening.”