The following text is a translation of the French original, which can be found at: (Les taxis touristiques)
Taxi drivers interact with many tourists on a daily basis and sometimes even constitute the first human contact a visitor has on arriving at his or her destination. This realization of the importance of their role has brought significant change to the global tourism industry. Whether on land or water, the mission of so-called “tourist taxis” sometimes goes beyond merely transporting their clients from point A to point B to focus on the overall visitor experience.
Québec taxis: a highly-regulated industry
In Québec, the number of taxi owner permits is restricted. According to the Montreal Economic Institute, in 2010 there were 84 taxis in Sherbrooke, 629 in Québec City and 4,445 on the island of Montreal. When they have a fare, drivers may not travel outside the zone for which they have a permit. These regulations are designed to protect the consumer and ensure quality service.
Montréal-Trudeau International Airport is the taxis’ most coveted client. To avoid disputes, it was decided in 2009 that a draw would be held for the right to purchase the 297 permits for this destination. The greater profit from trips and high volume of business and tourist clientele explain the popularity of this location.
A different kind of taxi service
Tourist taxis are different from other types of taxis in that they focus on the visitors’ experience and helping them discover a given destination. Often, the drivers will either have some relevant training or work closely with the destination’s Tourism Board. These companies usually offer a range of tours, as well as some customized ones.
In Québec City, for example, TaxiCoop Québec offers six tours of the city ranging in length from two to six hours.
- Québec City, its life and history
- Montmorency Falls and Orléans Island
- Québec City and Montmorency Falls tour
- Religious sites and surrounding area of Québec City
- Québec City adventure tour
- Québec City, its life and history (includes a cruise)
These tours, which can also be customized, are conducted by drivers who are certified as tourist guides by Merici College. The hourly rate for a group of 4 people is $65.
There are several reasons to use a tourist taxi, such as:
- Flight layovers often take up precious travelling time. Rather than spending tedious hours at an airport, some travellers would rather use that time to see as many sights as possible without necessarily renting a car. The solution? Hire a taxi. In Singapore, Taxi Tourist Guides are targeting those travelers, offering their captive clientele guided city tours that leave from Changi Airport and last a minimum of three hours. These guides have been certified by the Tourism Board and the Singapore Taxi Academy. The three-month long theoretical and practical training teaches drivers the main tourist attractions, some history, guiding techniques and client relations.
- Driving a car when on a wine tasting tour is problematic and possibly dangerous. Several French Tourism Boards have recruited taxi companies in order to resolve this problem. In the Bordeaux region, for instance, visitors can take a guided taxi tour of the region’s great wineries.
In many cities, bodies of water have at least some impact on transportation. This fact has inspired some communities to provide water-based transportation. Water taxis bring visitors to otherwise inaccessible locations, enable them to avoid long detours and offer a pleasant boating experience. They can be found in a few major cities around the world as well as in some nature parks. We have provided three examples:
- Rowes Wharf Water Transport, a Boston company that operates a water taxi service, offers transportation to many of the city’s major attractions and has exclusive rights to a few destinations, such as the New England Aquarium and Logan International Airport.
Source : Rowes Wharf Water Transport
- At New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park, water taxis play an important role in getting people around. Since the park has no roads, visitors travel along the coastline either on foot or by kayak. A water taxi is an excellent alternative for exploring the shores, visiting seal colonies on neighbouring islands and making sure the travelers get back to dry land.
Source: Marahau Water Taxi
- For the past five years, Québec’s own Excursions Maritimes has been providing a water taxi service in the capital region for visitors and residents alike. The company offers a number of different tours and packages from predetermined boarding points such the Quai des cageux on Champlain Boulevard, the Port de Québec Marina and île d’Orléans.
Source: Excursions Maritimes Québec
The company also offers more customized services. For example, passengers can ask to be dropped off at a certain point in the tour and be picked up at the same place a few hours later. In order to offer a wider range of services, the company has developed partnerships with other players in the local tourism industry.
The importance of quality service and innovation
The value of tourist taxis is based on the training of driver-guides, the flexibility and relevance of the services they offer, and how those services mesh with the existing tourism product. Although the taxi industry is highly regulated in Québec, whether they operate in the city or in outlying areas, taxi owner permit holders are free to implement this innovative business model.
– Conseil canadien des ressources humaines en tourisme. «Normes de compétence nationales».
– Institut économique de Montréal. «Industrie du taxi: en route vers une réforme», août 2010.
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