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Trishaw Uncle Singapore
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This is a developing story.

Singapore’s last trishaw operator, Trishaw Uncle, has reported not renewing their operating contract following their expiry at the end of May 2023.

In an interview with CNA, Trishaw Uncle Executive Tieu Xin Yue, shared that the company previously obtained their operating licence through a contract with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

“Prior to the end of our contract term, which (was) last May, we were told that we will have to return the site for other uses,” said Tieu in an interview on Tuesday (Apr 9).

The company has run trishaw tours from Queen Street, beside Albert Centre, since 2010.

However, according to Annie Chang, STB’s director of travel agents and tourist guides, the company’s operating site, Trishaw Park, has been “returned to the relevant agencies for their review on the usage of the site”.

Tieu said that after the company was informed it could not continue to use the Queen Street space, it spoke to STB about the possibility of using another site and has since shortlisted potential sites, including Chinatown and Gardens by the Bay, during discussions in 2023.

However, Trishaw Uncle has yet to find a suitable site, as it was informed that the shortlisted sites had other uses or that it was not allowed to use the space.

Tieu added that aside from ensuring that the site has space for the trishaws to be parked, it must also be accessible to tour routes. “It needs to tick all the boxes before we decide that it’s a good place,” she said.

Vulcan Post has reached out to Trishaw Uncle and STB for their comments.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s hard blow on trishaw businesses

The global tourism industry has taken a hard hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some businesses and agencies were able to recover, others – including Trishaw tour companies, found it challenging to bounce back.

Image Credit: Trishaw Uncle

Trishaw Uncle used to run tours that covered popular tourist destinations like Little India, Chinatown, Kampong Glam, and the Civic District. The company had about 40-50 trishaw riders before the pandemic but decreased to approximately 20 active riders after the pandemic.

The company owned 100 trishaws but scrapped these shortly after its contract ended, as it was unable to find a suitable holding place for them.

Despite the challenges, Tieu also emphasised that trishaw tours are a part of Singapore’s heritage and “an icon” of the country and expressed her excitement about reviving the business once it finds an alternative site.

If there’s an alternative site, of course we will be willing to restart these operations.

Tieu Xin Yue, executive of Trishaw Uncle in an interview with CNA

It is worth noting that STB has been working to maintain and revive old iconic landmarks and tourist destinations. Most recently, it announced its plans to rejuvenate Smith Street in Chinatown with new offerings for both locals and tourists.

In another media release, STB shared that it expects the city-state’s tourism sector to continue to recover in 2024 following a strong comeback last year, with tourism receipts amounting to S$24.5-S$26.0 billion.

To sustain our growth in 2024 and beyond, STB will focus on achieving quality tourism, cultivating strategic partnerships, investing in new and refreshed products and experiences, and supporting stakeholders in building capabilities.

Melissa Ow, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in a press release

With STB’s goal of providing “new and refreshed products and experiences,” they play a critical role in the survival of many businesses in hospitality and tourism, including Trishaw tour operators.

Whether we can see trishaw riders again on Singapore’s streets, only time will tell.

Featured Image Credit: Trishaw Uncle

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