Professional Development, Satisfied Customers, and Fair Fares
emerit-certified Taxicab/Limousine driver Jim Currie shares his keys to success in the tourism industry.
Jim Currie knows Halifax like the back of his hand. Born and raised in the city, Currie’s family roots stretch back for generations and he has links to major historical events such as the Halifax Explosion of 1917. His love for his country, province, and city is palpable – who better to welcome visitors from all around the world?
Thirteen years ago, Currie started Tours by Towncar , providing friendly and reliable taxi and limousine services as well as tours of Halifax and the surrounding areas. Currie’s experience in the industry stretches back to the 1980s when he learned to drive taxis and earned his license by the age of 19. “As soon as I got my license, I wanted to prove that I was an honest, low-maintenance, and dependable driver,” he says. “I sought regular clients and I worked hard for good references so I could get consistent work.”
An emerit-certified Taxicab/Limousine driver, Currie is constantly seeking to improve his credentials. He was among the first group of participants to take the 90-hour Host Taxi program, which is offered by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS). In Halifax, drivers must be nationally certified and their cars must pass regular six-month inspections in order to wait on hotel property to pick up guests. Currie is a proud participant in the Host Taxi program because it ensures that he and his colleagues are trained to the highest standards and are driving quality vehicles, which enables them to provide excellent service to hotel guests.
Recently, Currie spoke in favour of professional development at the Halifax City Council. “Certification is a gift,” says Currie. “It encourages professionalism as well as personal and professional development.” But not all taxi and drivers agree. “They see certification as something they have to do, rather than a tool for improvement,” says Currie. He believes it is vital to increase awareness of the importance of certification and to boost recognition for those that are certified.
“Customers aren’t easy to get but they sure are easy to lose,” says Currie. Becoming certified has underscored Currie’s beliefs about excellent customer service and it ultimately strengthened his confidence in his abilities and his product. “The smallest details add up to excellent customer service,” he says. “As long as your car is clean, your attitude is positive, and you drive safely, your client isn’t going to care if you’re driving a Chrysler or a Cadillac.
As the second taxi and limousine service in Halifax to have a website, Currie has always aimed to stand out and be one of the best. Other than wearing his trademark kilt at the airport and on special occasions, Currie’s primary rule of thumb is to set limits. “I don’t drive parties, and I am not interested in being around irresponsible drinking,” he says. “As a result, my cars are in great shape with no cigarette burns or stains that would put off the clients I want to impress.” Limits go both ways. “My clients are like family to me but I know my place,” says Currie. “As a driver, I make sure to respect their privacy needs.” When the balance is struck, a half hour cab fare can become a golden marketing opportunity.
Currie passes on this information and much more to his employees. “My drivers don’t need to know it all,” says Currie. “I can teach them as long as they are enthusiastic and motivated.” Currie mentors his new employees throughout the system, helping them prepare for licensing examinations and taking them on practice tours. He welcomes their interest in professional development and celebrates their successes. “Tuesdays are usually slow days at the airport – we call them ‘Two-Run Tuesdays’,” says Currie. “This past Tuesday, my newest employee Kenny had six pre-arranged runs to and from the airport in one day. This proves that we’re doing something right and it gives me a ton of energy.”
Training and certification provide the fundamental knowledge that quickly becomes second nature, enabling professionals to devote their energy to the best part of their job: working with people. “Drivers are often the first point of contact for visitors and first impressions are vital for the tourism industry,” says Currie. “If we can make our guests feel welcome, treat them with kindness, and show them the beauty, history, and culture of our home, then we will not only have satisfied customers but we will have made new friends as well.”