English is key to repeat business for local taxi envoy

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PETALING JAYA: Taxi drivers must be open-minded and make the effort to learn English as it is the language of the world, says veteran taxi driver Abdul Rahman Idris.

Speaking to FMT, the “Tourist Taxi Ambassador” said Malaysian taxis had the potential to be tourist ambassadors but much more needs to be done by both taxi drivers and the authorities.

Abdul Rahman, who is fondly known as “Uncle Rahman” to his regulars, said the secret to him getting repeat business was his command of English.

His passengers have left hundreds of notes in various languages in his cab. This is testimony to his friendly personality and the good service he provides.

“When you can speak English, it opens up a world of opportunities. We become more than drivers as we can have conversations with passengers and build up a bond,” he said, adding he had a host of regular local and foreign customers.

Rahman, 59, who formerly worked in the merchant navy, said by mastering English, taxi drivers could also promote the sights, sounds and tastes of the country with tourists and visitors to their area.

“We can tell them about the events, culture, food and great places to go to.”

He said it was also important for taxi drivers to be honest and sincere. There is no need for any taxi driver to resort to cheating customers as it is possible to earn a honest living, he added.

“If you cheat one customer, you lose a customer for life.”

However, he said it was unfair to generalise all taxi drivers due to a few bad apples.

“Not all taxi drivers are bad. There are many honest and good taxi drivers out there.”

He said the perception that all taxi drivers were bad was prevalent due to the lack of enforcement against those who broke the rules. This was where, he said, the authorities needed to improve.

Rahman also said the tourism and culture ministry must take more proactive steps to help taxi drivers become tourist ambassadors.

“How many taxi drivers know what events are taking place in the country or are being organised?”

Rahman pointed out that many interesting events and promotions were being organised, but taxi drivers were not informed about them.

Thus, he said, the ministry should brief taxi drivers or provide promotional materials for them so that they could help spread the word to tourists and visitors.

Rahman received the recognition of “Tourist Taxi Ambassador” from the tourism and culture ministry.

His taxi is also unique as it is filled with some 700 toys from all over the world,

They include Batman, the Smurfs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, rubber crocodiles and ladybugs. They make an interesting sight, to say the least.

He had bought the toys for his daughter during his sailing days.

“When she grew up, she did not have any place left for her toys and recommended that I keep them in my taxi and I did,” he said, adding he started off with around 100 toys.

“These toys hold some kind of fascination for passengers, who will add to my collection, either by buying toys for me or sending them by post from their own country.”

Rahman said even his adult passengers would get excited when they entered his taxi and saw his toys.