St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The revised dispatching system that took effect last week Monday at Port Zante would have been put to the test on Friday (June 23) when the first cruise ship for that week visited St. Kitts. Product and Development Manager with the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, Melnecia Marshall, told WINN FM that the Minister of Tourism, Lindsay Grant, has asked taxi operators to give the revised process a two-week trial period.
“We did state that it would take effect Monday 19th however there were no ships for the entire week up until Friday, so Friday was the real practical implementation date. So before Friday the presidents of the associations, they asked to meet with us because they had some concerns, and so we met with them on Wednesday 21st with the minister in his office and during that discussion we went a little back and forth on some of the challenges that they were having, the main one being that they wanted all three presidents to supervise the dispatching process. In that meeting we came to agreement where the minister asked for a two week grace period to see how it would work with just one president supervising the dispatching process in collaboration with the St Kitts Tourism Authority and the dispatchers from each association.”
On June 19th, the St. Kitts Tourism Authority introduced several changes to the dispatching system at Port Zante. Among the changes was a revision to the compliment of dispatchers which now includes one taxi Association President to oversee the operation, two from each Association, one representing Open Air Safari Operators and two from the St. Kitts Tourism Authority. In a previous interview on WINN FM’s Voices programme, Mrs. Marshall had said that prior to the revisions all three of the presidents were able to supervise, that there was no dispatcher in the arrival hall that represented the open air operators and that the Tourism Authority’s dispatchers are responsible for supervising the overall operations and also ensuring that our records are being kept and they are accurate.
“Friday (June 23) was the first day, we did have our first president there supervising the dispatching process and so we also had the dispatchers from the associations and the St Kitts Tourism Authority all working together on Friday. …I was there this morning for a little bit observing and it was working. There were a few challenges, because it’s hard for persons to break their habits and you still had some persons trying to come inside and dispatch and so we had to say we have to give it that two weeks and we have to put our best foot forward because it’s not about trying to ensure that it doesn’t work so that you can get what you want because at the end of the day the destination is at stake” Marshall said.
Tour operators who were working as dispatchers are required to dispatch for a minimum of 3 hours before they themselves were assigned guests by the Tourism Authority dispatcher.
Also, on ship days, vehicles with a capacity of 15 or more would be given no more than 12 passengers with special consideration for larger groups, while only six open air vehicles will be dispatched, in a rotation. There are currently over 300 taxi operators and 35 open-air tour operators in St. Kitts. WINN FM asked Mrs. Marshall how the system would manage to ensure that all operators were able to get work.
“There are two lines that are in existence at Port Zante, you have the first twenty five line and those persons in that first twenty five line they are the priority for the jobs for that day and then you have a free line and persons who are not in the first twenty line they can join the free line. Also we have the open air operators and they are guaranteed six per day, so on any given day that is what we determine. What I observed is that we do have some situations where the free line is moving faster than the first twenty five because you want that job to be a reasonably good job, so you want like an island tour or island tour and beach to give to that first twenty five. So sometimes if you have a lot of beach jobs coming out, you actually have the free line moving a lot faster than the first twenty five line.”
Operators in that first 25 who were not dispatched on any given ship day were assigned to be dispatched on the subsequent one.
“Usually if you don’t get a job in the first twenty five we just hold you for the next day, to ensure that you get that reasonably good job. We prefer not to do those smaller jobs in the first twenty five, because at the same time, we understand that persons want to have that income, so when you are in the first twenty five they are looking forward to that income so that they can support their families, so we understand that, so we try as much as possible to ensure that once you are in the first twenty five that you get that reasonably good job” she said.