Taxi operators are to have a polished new appearance soon with the help of a new uniform chosen by the operators themselves at a meeting Thursday night.
Despite the terrible rainy weather conditions, from 60 to 70 taxi and tour operators turned out for the meeting held by the Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford at the University College of the Cayman Islands.
The introduction of uniforms is just one of the ways in which the public transportation sector is being restructured, he said.
Although there has been some resistance to the uniforms, Mr. Clifford said it is very much in the interests of the sector to wear them. ‘Customers will recognise you as a public transport provider,’ he said.
However, although being labelled a ‘uniform’, the item chosen constitutes a Caribbean-style short-sleeved shirt. It was one of three options provided on a slide-show presentation and won by a majority of hands shown in its favour.
The 100 per cent rayon shirt has a pale palm tree design with coconut shell buttons and colour chosen for it was blue.
Director of Tourism Pilar Bush commented, ‘From a Department of Tourism perspective, we’re best known for the sea, so a choice we’d fully support is blue.’
Initially the shirt will be introduced as mandatory for all taxi drivers. Eventually said Mr. Clifford, it is planned to bring it in for all tour operators also.
‘We want to get to the point where it’s for everyone, but some tour operators already have made an investment in uniforms. It is initially for taxi drivers but ultimately we want to get everyone in uniforms,’ he said.
The same shirt will have a ladies’ and gentleman’s style and samples will be brought in to start off. Mr. Clifford said they will then try to source the fabric and make the shirts locally.
Also chosen was a Cayman Islands Public Transport logo, from a choice of five. The evident winner was one featuring Sir Turtle.
The logo is to feature on the shirts and on public transportation stationary.
At a previous meeting in January the operators had been told that the first year the government will provide the uniforms to operators. After this it will be up to operators to buy replacements, Mr. Clifford said.
There was some resistance to the uniforms at the meeting. Some said they felt they were being forced to do things against their will, while one taxi driver catering to corporate business says he had already invested in shirts and ties, something he has worn for years.
Mr. Clifford said the uniform is unworkable unless all taxi drivers wear it.
Some thought it a grand idea, but one comment noted that a uniform should be something someone can eventually work their way up to achieving.
Mr. Clifford said the best alternative is to make sure anyone coming into the system goes through a rigorous process of training and testing of local knowledge.
Another change being considered is the change of different categories of operators: such as those that operate at the dock or those that operate at the cruise terminals, the Minister said.
Other complaints expressed were that those getting pre-booked tours are taking all the business.
Mr. Clifford pointed out that workshops had been put on recently featuring cruise executives to help local operators negotiate contracts with the cruise lines. He could count on one hand the taxi and tour operators there.
‘I need you all to take advantage of the opportunities we’ve given you and we will continue to give you in interacting with the cruise lines, ‘he said.
Ms Bush pointed out that with 80 per cent of passengers coming off cruise ships and only 40 to 50 per cent going on pre-booked tours, this still leaves a good portion for the other tour operators. She admitted a system needs to be worked out by which they can get this business.
Last year there were roughly some 500 vehicles on the roads offering taxi services.
Although a moratorium had been brought in back in February, there are some applications before the Public Transportation Board that now have to be considered because they had been submitted prior to the implementation of the moratorium.
Chairperson of the Board said the legal opinion the board received was that there should be prior public notice before a moratorium is put in place. ‘The board understands and respects that,’ she said, but noted that advertising a moratorium would likely lead to a flood of applications.