LONG BEACH — A Queensway Bay water-taxi service that will link this city's downtown with Queen Mary tourist attractions is scheduled to begin May 22.
The water taxi is part of a business- and city-backed plan to lure more tourists and conventioneers here by taking better advantage of local waterways.
Two daily one-hour harbor cruises, also departing from Shoreline Village and the Queen Mary, are scheduled to begin in June, and dinner cruises are planned for the future, said spokesmen for Catalina Cruises, operator of the taxis.
Harbor cruises have been available only on weekends and even that service has been temporarily shut down.
Beginning a week from Wednesday, a single water taxi will begin shuttling passengers twice an hour from the marina at Shoreline Village to the Queen Mary and back. A once-an-hour round trip from the famous luxury liner to the Queensway Bay Hilton Hotel will also be offered.
The 40-foot water taxi will carry up to 49 passengers. The canopied vessel, designed to match the Victorian motif of Shoreline Village, will run every day from 11 a.m. until midnight and cost passengers $1 each way, said Catalina Cruises spokesman Bob Maguglin. Tickets will be available at a booth at the village and at the Queen Mary.
Chuck Knight, spokesman for the city's Convention and Entertainment Center near Shoreline Village, predicted the taxi will be a strong selling point with convention planners. In the past, visitors have complained about having to take a cab or bus or walk for 50 minutes to reach the Queen Mary.
"Now it will be just a five-minute trip," he said, "and the water taxi will become a tourist attraction itself."
The taxi probably will lose money its first year, though the harbor cruises are expected to offset the loss, said Maguglin. Taxi service might be expanded to Belmont Pier and Catalina Landing if demand develops, he said. Dinner cruises will be available initially only by charter, with groups of up to 400 dining at a total cost of $2,500, he said.
The city's Tidelands Agency, which directs development of much of Long Beach's waterfront, has been trying to get the taxi service started since 1983, when Shoreline Village and nearby Hyatt Regency Hotel were opened. After a bidding process, Catalina Cruises, which runs a passenger service from Long Beach to Santa Catalina Island, was chosen to operate the taxi and harbor-cruise operations.
A seven-member committee--with representatives from the Queen Mary, Catalina Cruises, Hyatt Regency, Queensway Bay Hilton, the Convention Center, the Convention and Visitors Center and Shoreline Village--was chosen to promote the new taxi service, said Catalina's Maguglin.
Its first promotion will be a grand-opening celebration in late May. Coupon books with discounts to local shops are being completed for distribution to taxi passengers, he said.
Bill Miller, president of the 2-year-old, nonprofit Convention and Visitors Center, said there will also be advertising campaigns in local and regional newspapers as the summer progresses.
The water taxi is one of three tourist-oriented services expected to be in town by the end of the year, Miller said. Grayline Tours is setting up an office here and a plan by Los Angeles Motor Coach Co. is now before the city for "London-style" double-decker buses to run along Ocean Boulevard from the downtown to Belmont Shore, he said.
"The water taxi ties in perfectly with what we're trying to create here," said Miller. "In the past, the downtown hotels mostly relied on business travelers. But now people are coming here looking for how to get to the Queen Mary and Disneyland."
Increase in Delegates
The number of delegates attending conventions here increased substantially to about 185,000 in 1984, the new Hyatt's first full year of operation, Miller said. The number is expected to jump 10% to 20% this year and is expected to increase again in 1986 because of the scheduled July opening of the 380-room Ramada Renaissance Hotel at Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue, Miller said.
Convention center bookings are good into the 1990s, he said, and today's 2,200 first-class hotel rooms downtown are expected to increase by 2,000 during the next three years.
"That will give us a higher concentration of first-class hotel rooms than (convention competitors) Los Angeles or Anaheim," he said.
Such growth has sparked a city study to determine the feasibility of expanding the Convention Center, which officials said is virtually booked to capacity this year, and which, for the first time, lost a large convention because of lack of space.