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For the millions who come to Liverpool every year, their first contact is with the taxi driver who picks them up at Lime Street or the airport.
But it’s not just a quick ride to their hotel that visitors look to a cabbie for – more than 4,000 last year also used them as personal Beatles tour guides.
Because Fab 4 Taxi Tours, manned by drivers who have an incredible Beatles knowledge as well as the traditional street knowledge, is now one of the city’s busiest tourist attractions.
From just one cab when the company launched back in 2007, there’s now a fleet of 20 – each with its own name – giving people a fact-filled ticket to ride around all the Beatles sights.
“All the drivers are very passionate about The Beatles and the city itself, many of them are interested in local history and some are musicians themselves,” says Paul Mullins, who runs Fab 4 Taxi Tours. “What we’ve done is bring together three magic ingredients – the iconic black Hackney cab, The Beatles footprint which is everywhere in Liverpool, and our local cabbies who love the city and love The Beatles.”
Paul took over the business at the end of 2019 from founders Debbie and Terry Keegan who first had the idea just before Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year.
“Initially, the company started in response to black cab drivers getting less regular work because of the influx of competition from taxi firms like Uber and the growth of private hire,” explains Paul. “Debbie and Terry saw an opportunity to move into the visitor economy and the business has been growing ever since.”
Over 12 years, they developed a series of tours ranging from two hours to a seven-hour marathon, specialising in giving visitors to the city a very personal insight into The Beatles backstory.
Paul, who has a background in tourism and trained as a Blue Badge guide for Liverpool alongside Debbie, was the ‘safe pair of hands’ the couple was looking for when they decided to take a step back last year.
He teamed up with the company behind the city’s Peaky Blinders tour to become Fab 4 Taxi Tours new owner.
Although he stresses that it’s really more of a partnership with the cab drivers, who are very much key to its success.
“We are the back end of the operation, providing the booking system and the marketing, and they are the front end, delivering the tours,” he says. “The drivers are all highly trained and very accomplished at what they do so it’s important that everything we do is in consultation with them.
“A couple of our drivers have been with the company a long time so they act as a vetting system and a peer review for us,” says Paul. “They’ll go through all The Beatles knowledge with new drivers and they’ll shadow them to make sure they’re giving the best experience. No-one is allowed to do the tour until they get approved by one of our ‘master’ drivers.”
It’s a formula that clearly works, because not only do thousands take a Fab 4 Taxi Tour each year, many come back and take it again.
“We get passengers from all over the world, especially America, and we get a lot of repeat customers – we’re noticing people taking a tour from one of the cruise ships coming into the city, then they come back the next year on a different ship and take another tour,” says Paul.
“We’re also seeing more people coming up from London. Our drivers pick them up from Lime Street station and take them to see the sights, then they’ll go back on the train later the same day.”
Having been running the business for just over six weeks, Paul is already looking forward to expansion.
“I think this year will be about consolidating and developing a joint vision in partnership with our drivers,” he says.
“We want to grow more opportunities for the company and for the drivers, who much prefer to be doing the tours to sitting a rank waiting for a fare. We’re all excited to go on to the next phase so it’s going to be an interesting journey ahead.”
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