Pedicabs back in action
The Novotel hotel on South Wharf is open again to interstate tourists after almost two years as a quarantine hotel, giving a boost to tour operators.
Locals say that custom is 20 per cent of its old level in this prime tourist precinct but the signs are promising.
Green Cabs is offering a $35 daylight trip from DFO to the station for shoppers.
Oliver was waiting outside the shopping centre and even though it isn’t like the old days of plenty at least there were people around.
This is a massive improvement from the heartrending situation last year when Rona Walk was deserted except for police, an occasional skateboarder and quarantine workers sitting outside the hotels on their breaks.
The industry has moved forward and coped with the mandatory vaccinations and QR codes that have enabled the community to break out of quarantine.
According to the Novotel website, some communal parts of the hotel are still closed, and guests are required to wear masks, but this hasn’t stopped them sightseeing.
A fare of $35 or $15 with tips will get two adults and two children across a bridge and into the CBD in a pedicab.
Oliver prefers Queens Bridge because of its low rise and some pedicab pilots, as they’re known in the industry, charge double to use the bridge to the MCG.
“It’s an absolute killer,” said Jimmy, a veteran pilot. “From DFO to the MCG I charge $70 and I would need a break.”
Many pilots have taken up other jobs during lockdown and haven’t returned. “There are ones who have stayed put in lucratively paid jobs,” Jimmy said.
During the Australian Open, Oliver was the only pilot serving the entire CBD. He did not sign up for the tennis. “He had the whole city to himself,” Jimmy said. “It was a smart move.”
The Urban Hub, the convenience store next door to the former quarantine hotels, has also reported an increase in custom.
The main customers were security guards, police and army personnel for many long months, then the store closed after the debilitating winter of ’21 when hopes of a return of tourists were dashed once again by another lockdown.
“We’re still not back to normal,” said Zain, the store assistant. “Our stock and sales are about 20 per cent. Before COVID we were really busy.”
Workers can’t resist making comparisons with days of old. Many are still dreaming of the golden years.
“Back in the day, DFO was the number one waiting point for Green Cabs,” Jimmy said. “We had six bikes able to use the rank at peak times, four at the bottom of the rank, two at the pedestrian crossing and four at the tram stop.”
Many of the venues are still closed and during the Australian Open seven cabs were employed but pilots are in short supply.
On a good night, such as New Year’s Eve, a pilot can still make $2000. “On Friday and Saturday nights I’m unhappy if I make less than $500,” Jimmy said.
There are shifts at the casino as it cranks up Pétanque Social, a new riverside bar.
“Going to Crown. Jump in. Free ride,” Jimmy said as he began his shift •
Caption: Oliver waiting for customers outside DFO.