SEOUL, April 16 (Korea Bizwire) — Nine years and 8.6 billion won in funding later, Seoul is stepping back from an international taxi initiative that was founded in 2009 to provide tourists with taxis with English-, Japanese- and Chinese-speaking drivers.
In the past nine years of their existence, each international taxi has averaged less than one trip a day. In 2014, the average was 0.43, gradually rising to 0.9 last year.
Manned by drivers hired through a special interview and testing process, not only were international taxis about 20 percent more expensive than standard cabs, but the lack of general awareness of the service resulted in foreigners traveling by either subway or bus. Faced with too few customers, international taxi drivers took to seeking out fares around major tourist spots, with some generating controversy for charging excessive prices.
According to city officials, Seoul will cut off funding, but the 378-strong fleet of international taxis will continue operations under the supervision of a private company.
“Though Seoul will no longer grant budgetary support, the city will help maintain the service desk at the airport at an affordable rate and will also supervise the taxi drivers,” said Yoon Sang-choon of Seoul’s taxi division.
Service desks are situated at Incheon and Gimpo International Airports. Foreigners can make reservations at these desks, and drivers come in person to greet and escort customers to their rides.
Seoul is currently deliberating on designating tourist taxis to exclusively serve foreign visitors on MICE business or as rides strictly for business trips.