Preferred Security and Policy Analysis Company (PEPSEC), a 100 percent Liberian-owned company, has launched a secured airport shuttle service aimed at reducing the inconveniences for people traveling in and out of the country through the Roberts International Airport (RIA).
The shuttle service, which runs daily between Monrovia and RIA, is timed to depart from various points around Monrovia and Paynesville, bound for RIA. On the return leg, travelers visiting Liberia will be able to book a hotel through PEPSEC and be dropped off there. According to PEPSEC, the shuttle vehicles are fully air-conditioned, WiFi-equipped and secure and its passengers are insured.
The launch of the service was held on Monday, April 21, 2019, at the WINGS Restaurant in the RIA compound, Harbel, Margibi County.
PEPSEC Executive chairman, Charles A. Minor, said the launch was to invoke the presence of God for His blessings upon the business and open the service to the wider market of RIA passengers.
"Our service will have some particularly innovative dimensions. In addition to working with the Airport itself, we will have a number of partner hotels. Our promoters and sales agents will meet and greet incoming passengers and guests in the airport terminal, book them hotel accommodation, if needed and sell them seats on our luxury passengers vans that will take them safely to their chosen hotels," he said.
Minor, who is Liberia's former Ambassador to the United States of America (USA), said the hotels will support "our efforts as we support theirs and together, we will drive forward safe and reliable accommodation and transportation between airport and hotels in the greater Monrovia." He believes that the initiative is small but an important step on the road to promoting tourism in Liberia.
"We believe that, although some donors and foreign investors are reported to be losing appetite to invest in Liberia, we Liberians are starving for ingredients to reverse the economic decline. One certain possibility is the tourism industry," he said in a statement.
"Tourists can be encouraged to come here. We have some of the basic infrastructure and there are few private Liberians doing what they can with small efforts to attract tourists, especially during the dry season," he said.
According to Amb. Minor, many hotels in the country have only 30 to 40 percent occupancy; with more tourists, especially from Europe and Asia, hotel occupancy rate can be pushed up easily to 70 or 80 percent and enhance income and generation of tourist dollars.
PEPSEC executive chairman said, "our restaurants are not being patronized; some have even closed; local transport caters only to locals who can hardly afford to pay remunerative rates so vehicles can hardly afford regular maintenance; service providers such as waiters and others in the industry are not receiving the pay incentives because the businesses in the industry have low turnovers a can-not afford betters terms and condition of employment.
"If the Gambia, with much less to see than Liberia, can survive on tourism, Liberia, still with a lot of pristine beaches, lakes, forest reserves and friendly people, can improve its tourist attraction," he added.
Ambassador Minor continued: "We need must quickly mention, however, we do need to build the capacity among those who are in the tourist industry, from the waiters in restaurants, to the taxi drivers on the streets, to the customs and immigration officers at the ports of entry.
"And that is doable. For PEPSEC, let me commit that we shall do our utmost to transport as many airline passengers to and from RIA as long as it is economically viable."
He further told the gathering that the airport shuttle will pick up passengers from the Embassy Suites Hotel, located at the heart of the Diplomatic District at Mamba Point; the Corina Hotel on Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor; the À la Lagune Hotel on the Congo Town Back Road; and RLJ Hotel and Resort at Kendeja.
He said the airport shuttle will drop passengers off at those same locations in the reverse order from the RIA. "Our vehicles are all ensured, our operators are very experienced and trained and retrained. They have also been given security and safety training."
Ambassador Minor said PEPSEC has about 170 staffs employed and contracted to provide security for businesses and private homes and "we are grateful to our many clients, especially NASSCORP, LBDI, Afriland Bank, insurance companies and many private individuals who have allowed us to provide them services over the years.
"We are also grateful to British Airways that have rated us one of the best providers of transport for their airline crew and they have recommended our services to several other European airlines who anticipated coming to Liberia."
PEPSEC was also privileged to provide transportation to the KLM crew during the entire period the Dutch airline serviced Liberia.
"With the experience PEPSEC has gained servicing airline crew, we are now launching this Airport Shuttle Service to target the wider Roberts International Airport (RIA) passengers market."
Ambassador Minor said in addition to the fully air-conditioned, the vehicles are equipped with fire extinguishers, First Aid kits and wifi, for the convenience of passengers.
George Daweh Yuoh, RIA's Chief Finance Officer, commended PEPSEC for the service and promised the airport's cooperation in moving forward Liberia's tourism sector.
For his part, the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Eugene Nagbe, welcomed the investment and pledged the Ministry's commitment to support and cooperate with PEPSEC in whatever way possible.
Minister Nagbe said tourism is a private sector driven area. "Without the private sector there can never be no tourism," he said. "We are the policy arm of government, we have to work, encourage and grant incentive to the private sector for tourism itself to put out. What is happening here today is one of the key components of the sector, moving tourists around in convenient and effective ways," he said.
Also speaking, PEPSEC Vice Chairman, Cllr. Henry Reed-Cooper, who gave the vote of thanks, described Ambassador Minor as someone who is always willing to work with people. He said Ambassador Minor, who he has known since he (Cooper) was younger than 21 years of age, "is somebody who knows how to organize, who knows how to work hard and who does not steal.
Meanwhile, the launch was attended by authorities of the RIA, PEPSEC staffs, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe and a host of other business associates, relatives, friends.
PEPSEC also has a branded kiosk in the arrival terminal, where airline passengers can book their seats on the shuttle and also book accommodation using one of PEPSEC's partner hotels. By the end of the program, the PEPSEC shuttle service had already secured its first two passengers who arrived into Liberia on ASKY Airline.
PEPSEC has been in operation for over five years in Liberia. Among other services, the company offers security risk assessment, security management, security guard services, escort services, "vault on wheels", electric fencing, intruder alarm and CCTV systems.