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Taxi drivers eye cash bonanza during Games

Local taxi drivers are hoping to cash in on the opportunities that come with Samoa hosting the 2019 XVI Pacific Games.

A number of taxi drivers that the Samoa Observer interviewed were excited at the prospect of making more money during the Games two-week calendar. But others say they would rather stick to their normal customers as they are not sure if focusing on sporting event will reap financial rewards.

Tuala Siuta Mase, manager for I love Samoa Taxis stand, said driving Pacific Games athletes around Apia can be a new experience for the drivers. But he would rather focus on normal customers as they make more money for that category of clients. 

In the 2007 South Pacific Games in Apia, Tuala also had a taxi service and they switched their taxi plate numbers to private as part of the Games transport service back then. However, he said there was a delay in paying participating local taxi service providers.

"In 2007's Pacific Games, the payment was challenging in terms of actually getting it, because they had to delay it for a month or more but with normal taxi driving, we earn daily and that's more useful for our families.”

Tuala added that driving for Pacific Games customers could be a good experience for the younger taxi drivers.

"I know that it's a once in a lifetime and that's only useful for our young drivers who needs to experience something new outside of taxi driving but truth be told, I'd rather stick to driving at the taxi stand daily,” he said.

Despite Tuala’s views, it has not stopped one of his older drivers from participating in this year’s Pacific Games, and is now driving for Team Tokelau.

Another driver who is with Freddy's taxi stand at Motootua, 22-year-old Niko Taumaoe, said he is also part of the Games’ transport service and he is looking forward to starting.

Meeting and interacting with the visiting athletes excites him, as he said it was an opportunity for him to learn more about other cultures in the Pacific Islands. 

"I've always read in Samoa Observers tourists from overseas are always proud of how Samoa has a very good hospitality and I always wondered if other countries are the same as Samoa so I'm just keen to know," he said.

More than three taxi drivers with Freddy's taxi stand are part of the Games transport assistance programme. 

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