Recession manifests itself in reduced use of taxicabs
Number of fares from airport fallen by 15-20 %
Taxicabs are queuing for clients outside the arrivals hall at the Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. As expected, there is a quiet moment around midday on Thursday, and taxi driver Esa Karlsson passes time by eyeing a day-old afternoon paper.
Even a book might come in handy, but according to Karlsson it is difficult to use the occasional breathers effectively.
The recession manifests itself even in this business. Rides from the airport have decreased in number by 15 to 20 per cent from last autumn.
“There are plenty of taxicabs around, but fewer fares”, explains Karlsson. “Working days are growing longer.”
”For Vantaa taxi drivers the rides to and from the airport constitute in excess of 50 per cent of their turnover”, says local taxi company Vantaan Taksi Oy managing director Esa Niinivaara. “The reduced demand means considerable difficulties for our business.”
Also in Helsinki people’s use of taxis has gone down.
“The signs of slump and recession always first show in people’s use of cabs. In Helsinki the number of fares has fallen by eight per cent from the autumn”, explains Harri Savunen, chairman of Helsinki Taxi Drivers’ Association.
“Until now we have wrestled with a labour shortage, but now, thanks to the recession, all the taxi driver courses are full.”
Especially those taxi drivers who work for someone else complain that their income level has fallen to near the pain threshold. In the quietest times, one may not have more than a couple of quick fares during an entire shift.
Still, according to Savunen, the situation is not quite as bleak as during the recession of the early 1990s, when the number of fares fell by 35-40 per cent.
At that time many cabdrivers filed for bankruptcy.
“The weekend use of taxis by those going out still remains at the same level as before. The weekday nights have grown quiet, however, and businesses have reduced their use of taxi services. And where there used to be four to five gigs to the airport in the mornings, there are now two at best.”
At the airport, Faraj Quadri parks his taxicab at the end of the queue and walks over to have a chat with Esa Karlsson. In Quadri’s opinion it still pays for Vantaa taxi drivers to come to the airport.
In Karlsson’s view one could perhaps drive around a bit in search for fares, but remaining in a known spot is still the best option.
At Helsinki-Vantaa the most fruitful times are the morning rush hours and the late hours at night.
Chatting with colleagues is a great way to pass the time. Quadri also has a television in his car for quiet moments.
And these days there are plenty of those.
The recession has taken its toll on Helsinki’s tourism industry as well. The worst affected month was February; visitor figures were down by 22 per cent compared to last year.
“The recession is manifested especially on the business traveller and corporate customer side. The number of holiday travellers, in turn, grew even in January”, explains communications manager Laura Itävaara from City of Helsinki Tourism Publications and Communications.
Most notable, about 30 per cent, was the decline in the number of Russian visitors.
“From Helsinki’s tourism point of view, 2008 was the best year ever, and this year’s figures are still higher than those in 2007. So I am not too worried”, says Kari Halonen, Marketing Director of Helsinki City Tourist & Convention Bureau.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Granting of further taxi licences in Helsinki halted (21.11.2008)
Recession not yet being felt in Helsinki tourism (16.1.2009)