Tourist transport an issue in East

The lack of public transport in the Eastern part of Grand Cayman could be negatively impacting tourism.

Director of the Reef Resort Tom McCallum says, ‘Public transport and taxis out East are so limited they cannot be considered as a viable option.’

While many of the Reef Resort’s guests rent cars and are encouraged to visit Eastern District attractions, Mr. McCallum said there are no taxi or tour operators operating in East End.

The Reef works with Tropicana Tours for pre-booked transfers.

For guests that don’t have rental cars, getting to attractions such as Pedro St James or Botanic Park can be difficult. Mr. McCallum says there needs to be a local operator taking up this responsibility.

He said the situation does not seem to offer opportunities for young Caymanians.

‘You’d think local entrepreneurs would step in, but it seems this isn’t possible. We even had one of our young Caymanian staff go out and buy his own tour bus only to find a) he couldn’t get any kind of public transport licence for it, then b) without the right colour licence plate, you can’t get the vehicle insured. After months of trying, he gave up and sold the van,’ he said

The Public Transport Board is in charge of granting taxi/tour bus licences on a case-by-case basis and based on the needs seen of supply and demand.

Mr. McCallum stated, ‘Perhaps there are limits on new taxi/tour bus licences for Grand Cayman, but it’s nonsensical to apply that blanket rule to the East, where we have virtually no bus service, no tour buses and no taxi service.’

He aired this and other Eastern District transport concerns to the Public Transport Board recently when he was given the opportunity to make a presentation. He is awaiting decisions from the board.

Chairman of the Public Transport Board Shomari Scott told the Caymanian Compass that the board previously approved a number of taxi and tour operator permits based on their business plans, which stated that they would supply the Eastern Districts.

‘Some of these operators have since said that there is not enough business in the east so they are moving to the west.’

But he said they have recently heard reports that the Eastern Districts are undersupplied, so the board is working with the accommodations and public transport sector to ensure that all parties concerned are aware of the service being offered.

Mr. Scott said the Public Transport Unit is compiling a list of taxi drivers and tour operators licensed to carry out business in the Eastern Districts.

‘This list will be sent to all eastern accommodations and a list of the accommodations will be provided to the taxi drivers and tour operators, with a view to helping them build relationships and develop business.

‘We will monitor this for a period of time of one to two months to ensure that the strategy is working and reassess with the private sector and operators at that time,’ said Mr. Scott.

The board is also reviewing two proposals to provide service to the eastern districts.

Mr. McCallum said one of the main problems is that there are taxi dispatchers at the airport trying to dissuade people from going to East End, which, he said, is ridiculous because visitors’ vacations are already booked.

Mr. Scott said that when a customer requests to go to a particular place, by law, the taxi operator must take them there.

‘Action has been taken in the past when operators have been caught trying to convince passengers to go to another location and any future infringements will be dealt with in the same way.’

The price of taxis is also an issue in getting to the Eastern districts.

Fares from Owen Roberts International Airport to Morritt’s or the Reef Resort cost $55.20. Airport fares are based on three persons per fare, with additional persons incurring additional 1/3 fare per person. So for a family of four the cost would be $73.60.

The taxi fare from central George Town to East End for one to three passengers is $69and 20 per cent of that fare for every additional passenger. Rates are set by the Public Transport Board.

With regard to the public bus service, Mr. McCallum said the buses fly by the resort, when they should be stopping at set times and coming into the entrance to collect passengers.

Mr. Scott said the schedule for regular bus service varies depending on the flow of traffic to and from George Town. But, he said, omnibuses for East End leave the bus depot in George Town every 15 minutes.