Limousine and taxi services at hotelsPOSTED BY CBT Team ON 10 July 2014
The first two international hotels in Kuala Lumpur were the Merlin (now Concorde) and Federal Hotel.
Later came the Hilton (now Mutiara), Regent (now Parkroyal), Equatorial (demolished for rebuilding) and Holiday Inn (demolished and now stands Impiana).
In 1983, I was commissioned to expand the services for the pioneer car rental company in Malaysia.
Later, I was also tasked to manage hotel limousines and tour desk at a major hotel at Jalan Ampang. Guests at this hotel enjoyed the level of service that had remained unsurpassed even to this day.
We provided them the most complete range of travel and transport services that included self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars, sightseeing with our tour buses and tourist guides, air ticketing, flight rerouting and reconfirmation.
Elsewhere, guests had to approach a hotel staff for information and hopefully assistance on such matters.
Beneath their calm exterior, these hotel personnel may be bubbling with joy whenever there is an opportunity for some side income.
For example, a receptionist would pocket RM60 by just making a phone call to book a half day bus tour costing RM120 for a couple.
A bellboy or doorman may set the taxi fare at RM150 to the airport and later demand RM40 from the executive taxi driver.
Likewise, concierges are more than pleased to arrange for any personalised services that guests may request for.
As long as there are no complaints and matters are handled discreetly and with decorum, they are accepted as normal services provided by hotel staff.
Unfortunately, taxi drivers are marginalised and sadly, the hotel managements do not give a hoot to them.
One of the most welcoming sights for cabbies would be spotting a blinking yellow light by the roadside before a hotel signalling passing taxis to drive in.
A budget taxi driver would light up upon learning that the trip is to the airport and told to collect RM90 from the passengers.
But he would soon be cursing silently for having to cough out RM20 to the doorman or bellboy, which is akin to demanding for a pound of flesh from these poor cabbies.
Yet these hotel managements chose to turn a blind eye when such transactions are captured by closed circuit television cameras.
However, this could pale in comparison with the anguish suffered by hotel limousine operators due to the glossing over of their operations by the defunct Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB).
In the early 1970s, there were more free independent tourists than tour groups. As such, all the tourist guides employed by the largest inbound tour operator were also limousine drivers, including myself.
Limousine taxis were mainly used as tour cars, picking up passengers from Subang airport, later for sightseeing or overland tours, and sending them to the airport for departure.
When I was managing limousine service for a hotel in the mid-1980s, individual owner-operators were also allowed to participate by paying a monthly fee.
This arrangement had been the modus operandi of hotel limousine services over the past decades.
The problem started when CVLB was concerned with encroachment and began to view limousine taxis more like express buses than tour cars or buses.
Express buses operate from a fixed base and run on scheduled routes whereas tour buses pick up passengers from anywhere except bus stations.
The operator appointed to provide limousine services do so at the pleasure of the hotel’s management and such contracts are not automatically renewed.
The concessionaire may choose invest on a big fleet or supplement with outside limousines. In any case, he would be in a Catch-22 situation when the concession is terminated by the hotel.
His fleet of limousine taxis would no longer be allowed to operate from where they are based and they are also not allowed to be based elsewhere.
Enforcement officers from the Road Transport Department and the Land Public Transport Commission had been issuing summonses to limousine drivers for picking up passengers outside their base.
They could not be blamed as they were merely enforcing a condition stated in the licence and the best solution is to remove the need for a base, just like for tour buses and metered taxis.