Operators of private livery companies are at loggerheads with Tourist Board officials whom they are accusing of actively steering visitors away from their businesses.
When visitors disembark an arriving ferry, they are typically taxied to their respective hotels by regular taxi operators OR by livery companies hired by these hotels/other establishments.
However, livery companies are claiming that visitors who have pre-arranged to travel with them are literally forced to travel by regular taxi.
The companies claim this happens whenever visitors don’t show documentation to the Tourist Board’s taxi dispatcher to prove they have prepaid to use a livery company service.
Livery operators incensed, uproar at ferry dock
This did not sit well with livery operators who caused an uproar at the Road Town Ferry Terminal on Friday when police were called to the location; seemingly to physically prevent visitors from boarding the livery company vehicles hired by their hotels.
“We are told that if our guests come out and they say they don’t want to go on a regular taxi, they are saying that they have to go with the regular taxi; they cannot come with us. Since when? Isn’t it the client’s choice to choose their provider if they feel safe? Most of our clients are repeat customers so they know us already,” said Andre Jackson, a joint-operator of the local livery company, Mackenzie & Sons Ltd.
“Our clients are pre-booked and some of them are prepaid. That’s why we know they are coming. We interact with our clients and they tell us they are coming. That’s why we are here standing up with our signs 360 days a year. So what are we supposed to do now? Jackson questioned.
Jackson and his business partner Renee Turnbull said their company is now haemorrhaging money, especially since they are still required to consistently pay fees as business owners and members of the transportation-for-hire industry.
“My company is incorporated. I am not working as a single proprietor. I have overheads. My clients are booked to come with Sunsail (a boat rental company). When they (tourist) come off the ferry and say they are going to Sunsail, they (the Tourist Board’s dispatcher as well as police) stop them and ask them if they (the visitors) have prepaid for a livery company service. If they say no, they want to give the transportation job to them (regular taxi operators),” Turnbull told BVI News.
She added: “That’s none of their concern if the tourists are pre-booked or prepaid. If they have stated where they want to go. Your concern is if they know where they are going. If they don’t know where they are going then your concern is to direct them where they are to go. But if they know where they are going, why are you further questioning them,” Turnbull argued.
Livery companies disadvantaged
Another livery company owner Roy Sebastian said the Tourist Board dispatcher, with the assistance of police, blocked more than a dozen pre-booked visitors from boarding his vehicle on Friday alone.
“They took 16 of my Marinemax guests and sent them to Marinemax on taxis. I can’t show the guests their names or ask them no questions which I think is unfair to me. Something has to be done about this. The government will have to do something,” Sebastian said.
When BVI News contacted the Director of the BVI Tourist Board Sharon Flax-Brutus for comment, she said she could not respond to our news centre’s questions on the matter until she is officially briefed by her staff and the Taxi & Livery Commission on what transpired.
She, however, put on record that: “The integrity of our guest experience must be protected at all costs.”
What the law says
According to Section 45 of the 2009 Road Traffic Regulations, “a person who prior to his or her arrival at a Port in the territory has pre-arranged for a taxi or livery service shall submit to the Port Dispatcher, his or her voucher confirming the pre-arranged service.”
The law further says the name on the voucher submitted “shall be matched with the taxi or livery service provider’s checklist before the service provider is permitted to transport the person.”
In the meantime, Section 21 of the 1993 Road Traffic Regulations says: “Where a Taxi Despatcher Service authorized by the minister is provided, taxi drivers shall comply with the instructions of the Despatcher”.
The preceding is the first of a two-part story
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