A new type of limousine service is fast spreading in Qatar, thanks to the continuing crackdown on illegal cabs, say industry sources.
Many jobless expatriates are now operating limousines procuring a licence from one of many rent-a-car or transport companies authorised to run the service.
They have found it a more secure job compared to operating an illegal cab because they don’t face the risk of being caught by law-enforcing authorities.
They are new entrants in the market, competing more with the taxi service than established limousine operators.
The business thrives in two ways — it benefits many low-income workers; and has become a new source of income for many rent-a-car firms struggling to survive.
“With the rising costs of new cars and their high maintenance costs, car rental business has become less profitable. Many small firms have been shut down or switched over to limousine business,” said an expatriate running a rent-a-car firm in Doha.
In most cases, these companies are not directly operating the service, but giving cars on hire to freelance drivers, along with the limousine licence and take a fixed daily or monthly rental.
In some cases, cars are owned by drivers who are supposed to pay a monthly fee for the licence.
Earlier, many low-income expatriates had been operating illegal cabs in the same way, using vehicles hired from rent-a-car firms on a long-term basis.
“As per rules, drivers have to be sponsored by the company. However, many expatriates have been allowed to run limousine services using a licence provided by an authorised firm. This is the reason for the services to become increasingly popular,” said the expatriate.
Limousines are not permitted to pick customers from the roads, like taxis. Most of their customers are working people, school and university students and families, mostly using their services on a regular basis.
“I have been using a limousine I have found far better than a private taxis. I pay QR900 per month, but it is not high because my job requires a lot of travelling. It is a new car and the service is satisfactory.
“Whenever I need it, I call the driver and he would pick me as per my convenience,” said a working woman.
An expatriate driver running a limousine said it is a safe job and profitable.
“There is not much risk involved. There will be police inspections but you only need to show the limousine licence. One can make a fairly good amount if one gets enough customers and if works hard,” he said.
“Limousines are not permitted to use cars older than five years. Like any other business, there are drivers violating rules and picking people from the roads,” he added.'
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