Taxi drivers in Bali have announced that they are pushing back against ride-hailing apps in the area. Local taxi drivers are fed up with ride-hailing apps undercutting their services and taking business from their communities.
The issues between local taxi drivers, tour guides, and online ride-hailing services have been ongoing for years. The conversation has resurfaced in taxi ranks across the island this week as AirAsia has announced that it will be introducing its version of an online taxi service to Bali by November.
The announcement has been received with mixed feedback. Some welcome the business opportunity, while others are frustrated that more competition is being introduced into the marketplace.
Taxi drivers in East Kintamani have confirmed that they are moving to block online taxi service providers from operating in the area, including GoJek and Grab. Speaking to local reporters, the Deputy Chairman of the Kintamani Tourism Transport Association (PAPK), I Komang Sidiasa, spoke with reporters on Wednesday 14th September. He said that online ride-hailing taxi drivers have been picking up tourists and locals along the Penelokan highway close to Songan Village despite the rejection from the community.
Songan Village and the surrounding communities sit alongside Lake Batur, where thousands of tourists come to explore every month. Drivers and guides like Sidiasa depend upon tourists visiting the area for their sole income. Visitors travel to Songan Village and Lake Batur from all across Bali. The majority come on day trips and return to Ubud, Amed, or the southern coast, requiring the use of a taxi service to do so.
Sidiasa explained that the core reason the 40 local tourism transport association members are so against online transportation providers is because of the margin by which they undercut local drivers. He said ‘The difference can reach IDR 200,00 (USD 13.30). For example, from Songan to Amed, local transportation charges a price of IDR 500,000 (USD 33.40), while online transportation is only IDR 270,000 (USD 18)’.
They argue that online taxi providers do not pay taxes to each village in the same way that local taxi drivers pay their contributions to the development of their communities. What’s more, local taxi drivers share their local knowledge and provide clients with services above and beyond that of a dial-a-driver. Online taxi service drivers are often are not from Bali but rather from other parts of Indonesia and who are believed to not support tourism infrastructure and communities in the same way that the local taxi drivers do.
Online taxi providers can undercut local drivers because they have access to more of the market, and the tariffs are set by the company. In a practical sense, it affects the local taxi system even further. Online drivers can pick up another customer at the destination of the last. In contrast, local taxi drivers must return to their patch and join the queue, according to the rules of local taxi operations.
Sidiasa told reporters that he and the Songan Tourism Transport Association do not forbid others to ‘seek their fortune’ in the area. They simply want to eliminate the disparity in the current taxi tariffs. They want to see online service providers match the rates of local taxi services rather than the other way around. Sidiasa says this ‘is for the sake of mutual convenience and the goodness of tourism in Kintamani’.
He went on to explain that the current rates set by the Songan Tourism Transport Association has been agreed upon by the 40 members, hotel owners, and tourism entrepreneurs in the area who help market the services of the drivers and private guides.
Private taxi drivers in Bali have already spoken up about their slow recovery from Covid-19. Despite the southern beaches and leading tourism hotspots edging ever closer to full capacity, taxi drivers across Bali have noted a struggle to recover.
There are already bans across tourism hotspots like Kuta, Canggu, Ubud, and Sanur banning online ride-hailing services. There seems to be no conclusion in sight for the matter. However, there are hopes that local communities and regional governments can work with the provincial government and online ride-hailing providers to create a fairer marketplace for all.
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