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Growing chorus for better taxi service at BIA and for tourists

Aug 31, 2011 2:30:37 PM - www.ft.lk

Following Monday’s Daily FTs exposure on the pathetic state of cartelised and limited transport options at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), tourist industry experts joined the fray saying a more organised and freely available taxi service was a solution.

“Easily recognisable and efficient taxi service with fare metres and uniformed drivers will certainly enhance the confidence level of a tourist on his first local contact point and journey,” Tourist Hotels Association President Anura Lokuhetty said.
“We could also consider two classes of services an ordinary one and a luxury offering for visiting tourists to choose from. This is a common and acceptable practice world over,” he added.
“When the country is trying to lure 2.5 million tourists by 2016 enhancing confidence and comfort levels is important,” Tourist Hotels’ chief added.
Other industry experts also pointed out that in the short term only metered trishaws should be allowed in hotel vicinities as complaints have grown about tourists being overcharged.
“When tourists are ripped off financially by unmetered trishaws they go back and tell their countrymen of their bad experiences. This negative ‘word of mouth publicity’ is more dangerous and nullifies any comprehensive marketing initiatives,” they added.
The Government could also facilitate such three-wheel fleets being upgraded to smaller vehicles such as Nano.
“The idea is in tandem with improving post-war profile of the country, per capita income levels as well beautifying the city, public transport options, in this case for tourists, must see a corresponding upgrade,” a hotelier pointed out.
UNP MP and party’s Chief spokesman on the economy Dr. Harsha de Silva was quoted as saying in yesterday’s FT that Sri Lanka was perhaps the only place in the world where incoming air passengers don’t have a freely available and comfortable taxi service.
He alleged that the current cartelised-type operations powered by a mafia and influenced by politicians was an eyesore and put off any independent traveller in addition to causing a bad first impression of the country.
At present a visiting tourist has to depend on the services operated by authorised agents who maintain a counter within the airport. If a Sri Lankan wants to get to Colombo or anywhere, only a van service, often involving old vehicles, is available via a chit system. In most other airports there is an efficient and comfortable taxi service freely operated where a person only has to wait in a queue.
 “If Sri Lanka is trying to attract larger numbers of up market tourists as well as independent travellers, transport options at the BIA must see a paradigm change with free availability of better taxis devoid of the current arrangement,” Dr. de Silva opined, adding that competition would improve service.
“The whole experience of a traveller to Sri Lanka must change for the better,” he added.

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