Aug 10, 2009Why tipping is necessary in travel industry
I REFER to the Forum Online letter by Mr Noel Low last Thursday, 'Clamp down on compulsory tipping in travel industry'.
Tipping has always been a sensitive issue, not only in the travel industry but also in many other Singapore service industries. With the exception of the hotel and restaurant sectors, which are fortunate to have a 'compulsory' 10 per cent service charge incorporated into their customers' bills, the rest of us do not enjoy such a privilege.
Singaporeans in general are poor tippers because it is not in our culture. I recall many years ago, there was even a campaign to educate Singaporeans not to tip. While this is acceptable in Singapore as our workers are decently paid, this is not the case in many other countries. Tourism industry workers in many countries depend on tipping as their main source of income.
Stuck between having to charge a much higher tour price if they were to have all the costs incorporated, some travel agents choose to strip their products bare and charge for many items separately. These may include tipping, optional tours or other items. We are really not that different from the airline industry, which chooses to charge its fuel and tax cost separately.
All this creative pricing is a result of competition and not manipulation by industry players. Singapore is a price-sensitive market and traders are just reacting to market needs and demands.
There are more than 850 travel agents in Singapore and not all practise the same business model. Some charge high-priced all-inclusive tours, while others charge low prices with a lot of optional items. The choice has always been with the buyer. Should trading conditions fall short of one's expectations, the strongest message one can send to a seller is not to buy the product.
Instead of constantly asking for government intervention even on trivial matters, it is time Singaporeans learnt to take responsibility for what they buy.