Smithers Tourism Society is growing concerned about the lack of a taxi service and trying to raise awareness of the problem and find solutions for getting people from the airport into town. (File photo)

Smithers Tourism Society is growing concerned about the lack of a taxi service and trying to raise awareness of the problem and find solutions for getting people from the airport into town. (File photo)

Tourism society worried about lack of taxi service

Society trying to come up with solutions to get people from the airport to town

The lack of a taxi service is worrisome for some tourism operators in Smithers and the Tourism Smithers Society is hoping to come up with some solutions.

This spring and less than two years after Paddy Hirshfield and Patrick Hibbitts resurrected Bulkley Valley Taxi after Joyce Pottinger walked away from the business, they shut down operations. The pair said the market was not strong enough to support their business. Previously, when Pottinger closed the doors in January 2020, she cited an inability to find staff as the main reason for stepping away.

The Tourism Smithers Society wrote a letter to town council asking them to work together to find a solution.

“This is a difficult one,” said Councilor Frank Wray. “Our role is a facilitator but at the same time, we run the airport and if people cant get to and from town, that affects the airport. I do think the solution has to come from the community but there are some things that council can work on. We can advocate and work with senior level governments. They are asking to work with council and staff so maybe a meeting is in order.”

Councillor Greg Brown agreed and said our MLA did flag this issue and expressed a commitment to work on it.

“It seems like this has been a persistent problem and it is affecting us,” added Brown.

Council decided to put the letter from the Tourism Society about the lack of a taxi service on the agenda of standing committee strategic priorities meeting. That date for that meeting has not been announced.

READ MORE: BV Taxi shuts down again

Chamber of Commerce manager Sheena Miller said she has heard complaints mostly from visitors and guests arriving at the Airport who have no means to get around the valley who end up frustrated at the Visitor Centre. Also she said that a few hotel managers and fishing lodges have also raised concerns.

Manager of the Capri Motor Inn, Lisa Bowd said she isn’t sure exactly what the direct impact has had on her hotel but said she there was a couple of instances where she couldn’t hire people to work at the hotel because they don’t feel safe walking at night.

Society Chairman Al McCreary did agree with council that the solution will likely have to come from the business community but there is the idea to expand the local transit service in order to service the airport and the town would have to be on board for that.

However, he said the most plausible solution might be to get the hotels together to jointly operate an airport shuttle or maybe create a ride share program in town.

On the other hand, manager of the Sunshine Inn, Sharon Eastbrooke said there aren’t enough flights coming in to make that profitable. She thinks the town can loosen up permitting and licensing to make it easier for hotels to drive around their own guests and the community should be pushing for the BC Transporation Board to allow Uber (a ride sharing company) to operate outside of the lower mainland.

McCreary said the society is trying to be proactive about the problem because a lot of meetings take place in the fall and winter and if people fly into Smithers and can’t get into the hotel where the meeting is, meetings may be moved to another town.

“We want to make people aware of the problem before it becomes a bigger problem, when winter comes and more people are flying than driving, particularly for meetings, it may have a detrimental affect down the road.”


@MariscaDekkema
marisca.bakker@interior-news.com

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