Consultants have been hired to review taxi rates in the Cayman Islands amid debate about the fairness of prices.
Options, including the use of taxi meters, will be considered as part of the review.
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association raised concerns last month about high prices and lack of consistency of fares, saying it was threatening the island’s reputation among visitors, while some drivers have disputed the Public Transport Unit’s fare structure.
Durk Banks, director of the Public Transport Unit, said the board is legally required to set rates, He said it is aware of the concerns over prices and in September put out a request for proposals for an evaluation of the fare structure.
“The consultants will provide an independent evaluation of the existing taxi rates focusing on modernization and rate standardization,” he said.
He said the consultants, appointed in December, would provide guidance, strategic recommendation, industry trends and data to the board, adding that their recommendations will be reviewed in consultation with taxi drivers and other stakeholders before a new system is implemented.
Members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association spoke out about what they see as unfair and inconsistent pricing, at a meeting in December.
Several restaurant and tourist attraction managers raised concerns about fares which they said vary wildly depending on who is driving the cab.
Matthew Bishop, CEO of Island Companies and Cayman Distributors and one of the directors of the association, said the group wants taxi drivers to be able to earn a good living and be ambassadors for the industry. But he said there needs to be clarity and consistency over prices.
“Whether it is the reality or not, people are certainly feeling ripped off. There have been comments on TripAdvisor and it affects the reputation of the destination.”
Other business owners said there needs to be a simple system, such as the use of taxi meters, to ensure prices are implemented consistently.
Mr. Banks acknowledged that some drivers have been suspended for overcharging or related offenses. He did not have an exact figure, but said he believes it is “less than 10” is the past year.
He said the review is meant to find a system that is fair to drivers and to businesses.
“The PTB appreciates the role taxis play in our tourism product. The PTB is committed to reviewing the pricing structure to ensure the Cayman Islands tourism product remains competitive.”
He said the review would consider all options, including meters.
Tender documents from the original request for proposals indicate that the consultants will also be asked to look at whether a central dispatch for all taxi operators, or an alternative such as a Cayman taxi app, could be viable options. They will also look at rates by region as well as fees from tourist’s home countries and how these factors impact perceived value for money.
Cayman’s unusual practice of charging significantly varying fares for the same route depending on how many passengers are in the cab has also come under scrutiny.
Mr. Banks said current legislation allows drivers to charge a 20 percent surcharge for every additional passenger when there were more than three people in a cab. He declined to say if there are any plans to change this policy until the review is complete.
Some taxi drivers have disputed the PTB’s legal right to set fares, suggesting they have previously been set by a driver’s association and approved by the board. Mr. Banks said the PTB sets the fares as per the Public Passenger Vehicles Regulations (2014 Revision).