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Cabbies to be ambassadors for Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 09:41 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:41 30 June 2010

You might expect to pass your time in the back of a taxi just chatting about the weather or swapping opinions on the latest football headlines.

But a plan being championed by Great Yarmouth's tourism department could see the town's 600-strong army of taxi drivers turned into “front-line ambassadors” for the resort.

You might expect to pass your time in the back of a taxi just chatting about the weather or swapping opinions on the latest football headlines.

But a plan being championed by Great Yarmouth's tourism department could see the town's 600-strong army of taxi drivers turned into “front-line ambassadors” for the resort.

Under a proposal first suggested by local councillor Mike Butcher, banter about John Terry's alleged shenanigans or revelations that “I had that Jim Davidson in the back of my cab” could soon be replaced by helpful advice on Yarmouth's attractions.

Details have still to be worked out, but it is likely drivers will be galvanised through such incentives as free tickets to attractions or a monthly employee/driver of the month award.

At a preliminary meeting with the bosses of two of the town's largest taxi firms, Swifts and Albies, the first reaction was that it is a brilliant idea.

Borough tourism officer Alan Carr said: “Mike organised the meeting to get the taxi firms to appreciate the value of putting out positive messages to put our visitors in a positive frame of mind.

“I know some drivers do it already but others probably don't have sufficient information at the moment and that's down to us.”

Mr Carr suggested drivers could be helped into their new role as “travelling information centres” by being sent a weekly or monthly news letter.

They might then be encouraged to start talking about up-coming events, such as next week's Mardi Gras, or, in September, the Maritime Festival.

Drivers might be primed on local attractions and regeneration projects in the town and even given literature to hand out - the reverse of their business cards might be used to promote the scheme or Yarmouth or both.

He said: “There are 600 drivers in the borough, all of whom meet thousands of visitors every month, and there is the potential for them to become key front-line ambassadors for the town.”

The owner of Swift Taxis, Tony Boyne, said: “If they are going to do something for the drivers, like offering them free entry to attractions in low season, it is a brilliant idea.”

However, he admitted there would be a need to overcome the negative attitude of certain drivers who did not view their job as a career.

He said there would be a case for drivers handing out a simple leaflet - but tourists would be more likely to keep hold of it if it contained essential numbers such as the hospital and 24 hour chemists as well as information on attractions.

Neil Kitchen, a director of Albies, said: “It's a wonderful idea. To get people moving around the town to different attractions is good for everyone.”

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