Inset: Minister of Tourism Lindsay Grant, Port Zante, St. Kitts (file photo)

By Loshaun Dixon

Basseterre, St. Kitts-The Ministry of Tourism is seeking to change how taxi operators solicit business from cruise ship passengers at Port Zante and regulate to mirror what occurs at the Robert Bradshaw International Airport and the Deep Water Port.

Speaking at a media event on Monday at Port Zante, Minister of Tourism Lindsay Grant disclosed that the current set up has to be altered to accommodate 15,000 passengers on any given day.

“The Ministry of Tourism and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority were in collaboration and constant dialogue over the past year with taxi operators to try to find a workable solution that benefits al,” he said. .”When I say benefit I mean at the end of the day our remit is to ensure that our people get the benefit of every single dollar they can derive from the cruise passengers.”

Mr. Grant indicated that the Tourism Ministry is seeking the best cordial fix with the taxi operators that would best suit the industry. He also revealed that the construction of a second pier will cause reorganisation of Port Zante as the area for passengers who have pre-booked tours will be displaced and move to where the taxi operators normally lobby for business.

Grant said the owners of Port Zante have constructed an $800,000 taxi stand that is unused for the most part and will now be used for taxi dispatching.

“We believe that is a reasonable place for them to be place,” he added..”We have said to them you are not going to lose business because we as the Ministry of Tourism will hire individuals who will guide the visitors as they come from the arrival hall down to where the taxi operators are.

“That for us is going to ensure that the visitor experience is at its highest. Traditionally we have been having issues with dispatching from the taxi stand.”

The Tourism Minister compared his vision for taxi dispatching on Port Zante to similar practices at the Deep Water Port and RLB International Airport both controlled by the St, Christopher Air and Sea Port Authority (SCASPA)

“We are not plucking anything out of the air because when the cruise ship docks at the commercial pier (Deep Water Harbour) there is despatching in a most proper wa,” he stated. .”You would also recognize at the airport when you come outside there is proper dispatching by the taxis. The only difference in the dispatching is at Port Zante. We want to correct this because when the passengers come to the arrival hall we have a lot of soliciting and because of the soliciting we have under-cutting of the government rates taxis outside the arrival hall and beyond.”

Grant stated that the current set up creates brawls and division among the operators where nobody benefits..

“The taxi men don’t benefit because they undercut one another and are demeaning the value of their work,” he said. “Changed is not always welcomed. We have no horse in the race. Our remit is to ensure the visitor experience in St. Kitts and Nevis is at a premium and we become a marquee port.”

The tourism Minister said they are slated to meet with the entire taxi fraternity to indicate what are the options.

“At the end of the day we want to see the industry grow.  Life is one of concessions and we are saying we believe this is the best place you can be in for the proper working of the industry. If we continue going down the road we are going we are going to create chaos and confusion in this industry and we are going to lose the value of St. Kitts and Nevis cruise industry,” he said.

He added that changes could also lead to equal distribution of business for the taxi operators.

“There are taxi operators who don’t even come down to Port Zante because they feel they are being shafted…obviously there is something wrong and we are trying as much as we can regulate by policy what is being done at Port Zante,” he declared.

Grant said the top issue among cruise ship passengers who visit St. Kitts is harassment.