Touting, the end of tourism in Singapore?

By Jessica Lim
The Straits Times
Thursday, May 16, 2013

SINGAPORE – A plump man in a white polo T-shirt walked up and down alongside the lengthening taxi queue outside Mustafa Centre on Thursday evening.

The man, who looked to be in his 50s, asked a person in the queue his destination. It was Geylang.

“Geylang, who else is going around there?” the tout asked, loudly. “Why you want to wait so long, for what? I give you a ride there.” Quoting a $20 flat fee, he pointed towards a mini-van by the side of the road.

I was in the queue that evening, guidebook in hand, posing as a tourist. He offered me a ride to Orchard Road for $20, then pressed a laminated namecard into my hand. On it were thumbnail pictures of attractions, including the Underwater World, River Safari and Gardens by the Bay.

Under each picture was the original ticket price and a discounted rate.

I asked him for a Singapore Flyer ticket. He asked me how many I wanted. Just one, I told him.

“I give you, $30,” he said, opening his wallet. He pulled out a general admission ticket, with a June 30 expiry date. The original price of $33 was printed on it too. As I scrutinised it, he reassured me it could be used.

After I bought it, he asked me to call him if I wanted other tickets in the future.

Tell your friends, he suggested.

Yesterday, when I called the mobile phone number listed on the namecard to ask about prices, the man on the other end asked me who I was. I gave him my name.

He replied: “I don’t know who you are. I am bankrupt already. Not doing this business already. Bankrupt.”

Then he ended the call.

Even bigger discounts

I walked into two travel agencies at the Landmark Village Hotel in Bugis last week. Both offered me tickets at much lower prices than those being sold at the attractions.

One offered me $18 for a ticket to the Singapore Flyer. If I was a tour guide, I could buy the ticket for even less, at $16.

I said I was taking some people on a tour. She sold me two Singapore Flyer tickets for $16 each. She did not ask to see a tourist guide licence.

Encouraging me to refer my friends to her, she said that she could sell us tickets to Universal Studios Singapore for $62, down from $74; Gardens by the Bay for $18, when the usual is $20; and tickets to the Underwater World, which normally cost $25.90, at $15.

Author: Gilbert Tan TS

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