Muscat: Traditional white and orange taxis operating in hotels have been given a deadline of May 31 to either join the new metered Marhaba Taxi company or stop operating from the premises.
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This is the first time a deadline has been set for the orange and white taxis to move out from the hotels, where they have been operating for years.
Yousuf Al Hooti, project manager of the Marhaba taxi, said they are looking to operate at all the hotels in Muscat by this month-end.
“We plan to cover all hotels. Be it one star to five star and we plan to start operating from some of the hotels from next week,” he told the Times of Oman on Thursday.
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Announcing the details of the public transport strategy that will continue into 2025, the Minister of Transport and Communications, Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Futaisi said Mwasalat and Marhaba will only be allowed to operate in hotels, airport and commercial complexes.
He also said there is no limit on the vehicles that they can operate or areas where they could work, as long as those who join are current taxi drivers.
Al Hooti had earlier said they were facing some problems as some of the hotels refused to cooperate with them. “But the problem is getting solved thanks to the Ministry of Transport and we are slowly signing contracts with the hotels,” he added.
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While Marhaba taxis are expected to be present at all the hotels by the end of this month, Times of Oman contacted hotels in the capital, who said they have received no intimation ahead of the fast-approaching deadline.
“We have a good agreement with the orange-and-white taxis in Oman, and we have received no official notice and any contracts from the government,” said a senior manager at one hotel.
“We know that they have plans to replace the current cabs, but unless they provide us with a proper procedure, how can we bring in the new ones? This will be very harmful for our clients and we will lose business if they don’t have easy access to public transport.”
“As far I have heard, there has been no development on Marhaba taxis, and until we receive further notice, we will be sticking with the taxis we currently have,” added a director of another hotel.
“We are not too close to the important centres in Muscat, and taxis are therefore a must for our customers. We have heard that there are currently problems between the taxi drivers and the operators, so unless that is resolved, I don’t think we can employ Marhaba taxis at the hotel.”
The fares for the Marhaba Taxi will begin from OMR3 at the hotel premises. “It will then be 250 baisa per kilometre,” he said.
Compared with the current white and orange taxis rates, Marhaba Taxis will be slightly cheaper. For example, a taxi from a hotel in Ruwi to the Muscat International Airport will cost around OMR12, while a Marhaba taxi will cost around OMR10, considering the distance is around 28 kilometres.
A trip from a hotel in Qurum to the Muscat International Airport in an orange and white taxi will cost around OMR8 to OMR10, while the 18 kilometre-ride will be priced at OMR7.5 in a Marhaba Taxi. “But the good thing is that tourists won’t be ripped off,” a hotel employee said.
The company plans to run 600 taxis in Oman in the first year of operations. There were, however, mixed responses from orange and white taxi drivers. “I am yet to decide whether I will join Marhaba Taxi as we have to give them a commission of our earnings,” said Mohammed, a taxi driver.
Another taxi driver, who has joined Marhaba Taxi, revealed that he joined after a lot of deliberation. “Now at least I don’t have to wait endlessly for my customers. Let’s see what happens,” said another taxi driver.