Taxi operators say no to amphibious buses project

By Martina Johnson

Taxi operators at Heritage and Redcliffe quays have summed up as “nonsense” the government’s plan to enter an arrangement with a Canadian firm to operate sea and land excursions.

The drivers are calling on the government to scrap the idea, as they said any such action would amount to the Gaston Browne-led administration “taking bread out of [their] mouths”.

They’re responding to the latest Cabinet report, which indicated that the Cabinet invited the principals of a Canadian firm, Hippo Tours Inc. that operates amphibious buses, to consider entering into an agreement with National Asset Management Company (NAMCO), a company that’s wholly owned by the government.
The hope is to use the company’s amphibious buses that seat 40 passengers to conduct excursions on land and in the sea for cruise tourism passengers.

Although the taxi operators did not want to be named to “avoid being targeted”, they were very clear in expressing their thoughts on what they said would also be “unfair competition”.

One taxi operator of over 30 years said, “I can’t see [the government is] telling us [they] are going to bring in this private entity to compete with us when we have an overflow of taxis and little business … Now, why would the government want to compete with its own local people?”

“They [government officials] need to come to us the stakeholders because they are giving the impression that we’ll have bumper- to-bumper cruise season but boats are cancelling all the time. Carnival Fascination was supposed to come [yesterday] and it didn’t come and Carnival Fantasy was supposed to come [Thursday] and it didn’t come,” the man said.

He called for a “townhall meeting” to discuss the matter “at length” because this “threatens to undermine the stakeholders” who he feels can and should come up with ideas to counter the plan.

Another driver said, “We are just a small island trying to keep our head above water and I don’t think it will go down well with the stakeholders. When you go out to negotiate, negotiate to bring income into the country not to take away. We need investors to invest in ways we could benefit from, not to take revenue out of the country to the Canadians.”

The taxi operators also questioned where the amphibious buses will start and end their tours and the fairness of this because current taxi operators aren’t even allowed on the beaches.

One of them said, “That’s nonsense to me. It does not help me; it does not help the majority of people who cater for tourism because it is going to be either a one-man or a company interest. Presently, when cruise ships arrive, [the business] spreads to as many people in the association.” 

When Cabinet spoke of the planned project last week, it said it will be  an “expansion of fun services to cruise tourism passengers”.

(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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