BRIDGETOWN, Barbados–October, 23rd, 2020–Registered taxi operators across Barbados now have an additional option through which to ply their trade – the Pick Up Barbados app.
Speaking during the launch of the app at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today, Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, said in the wake of COVID-19 and with a reduced number of visitors to the island, the time had come for consideration to be given to a new model of doing business for those in the taxi sector.
“We had to find a way to ensure that we create an opportunity that would allow us to harness the skills set of the taxi operators, and at the same time try to salvage some economic opportunities for you all as a grouping,” he said.
The Minister explained that the app did not require taxi operators to stop their daily business, or sign on to anything, but was offering them “valued added”.
“Pick up Barbados will allow you to benefit from anybody, not just a tourist, [but] anybody who simply wants a ride. If your vehicle is nearby, your vehicle is hailed and you go and pick up the person. If you don’t feel like doing it, you can choose not to do it. Somebody else’s vehicle could be selected to do the business….
“The point is for every Barbadian…that needs to use this service, then you have an option you did not previously have. This would prevent you from sitting still for hours or standing still for hours…,” the Minister pointed out.
He gave the assurance that the concerns raised by the taxi operators would be addressed, and stated that the developers were asked to “rework their figures in a sensible way”, and present a new structure within another three weeks.
The Minister told those operators who were interested that a new date would be announced when they could come and hear the revised proposal.
“We have to find a way to ease the pain in the sector. That is what this intervention is all about,” he stated. Co-owner of the app, David Hamel-Smith, explained that Pick Up Barbados was a mobile application which used mobile technology and common sense to solve problems.
“You will spend less time sitting in a taxi stand, and passengers will spend less time walking to the taxi stand or waiting. They can use the app to find a driver who is in their area quickly and seamlessly,” he explained
Noting that there was an app for drivers and one for passengers, Mr. Hamel-Smith said taxi operators would be required to pay a 10 per cent commission for all rides that occur through the app for the remaining of the year, and a 20 per cent commission from January 1.
But, he stressed, to qualify for the “value added” service, persons must be registered taxi operators; have a smart phone and a bank account to facilitate automatic remittances unless making a payment by cheque.
Passengers will have the option of selecting cash or credit card to make their payments. The developer said if the passenger selected cash, the taxi operator would receive a note stating “take cash” which will show the figure.
However, if they use their credit card, the payment is processed through the app which processes the payment straight to the Pick Up Barbados account.
“You will see it reflected in your earnings in the app,” he said, noting that every two weeks, operators would have their earnings remitted to them minus the commissions for the developers.
Among the concerns raised by the taxi operators were the commissions being charged by the developers; the proposed $4 per kilometer rate of pay; competition in the sector and the ability to meet their vehicle and mortgage payments.
The Barbados dollar has a value of approximately US$0.50, so the proposed rate for fares appears to be fairly steep.