GEORGE TOWN: Happy days are here again for the trishaw industry. The arrival of cruise ships on a regular basis has given local trishaw peddlers a ray of hope after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Each port call at the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal (SPCT) means a bonus for the trishaw peddlers as they can earn “fat tips” ferrying their rich clients around the city.
Some of the trishaw riders even learn how to use the latest technology and language skills to communicate with tourists from various backgrounds. Others would keep tabs on the arrival schedule of the cruise liners.
“We charge reasonably, between RM60 and RM100 per hour.
“Some of the international tourists from richer countries always tip us at the end of their ride.
“To them, it may just be peanuts, but for us, the amount is big when converted into our currency.
“So, we provide them with the best services and hospitality. They feel happy when we are able to converse and explain to them about the city and attractions here,” said a peddler who wished to be known only as Leong, 52.
Another peddler, Rozaini Basharudin, 37, who recently gained fame for ferrying the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, around George Town, said the revival of the trishaw industry is timely as they had been struggling to make ends meet, especially during the movement control order.
“We have several groups of peddlers here, and each one has its own leader. My boss usually receives pre-bookings when the cruise ships arrive.
“We charge RM70 an hour. Usually, about 25 to 30 trishaws would be booked to take the cruise passengers.
“After the first hour, it is up to the passengers if they want to extend our services to explore the city further or not,” he said, adding that he could usually get about five to six bookings monthly.
“During peak season, I can get up to 15 bookings. We also fetch local tourists, but the arrival of cruise passengers is a bonus for us. I’m looking forward to December as there will be 19 cruise arrivals in that month alone,” he said.Between January and August this year, a total 1.01 million passengers have made transits at the SPCT, according to data from the Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB).
Among them were 776,454 international visitors and 239,644 locals. PPSB expects an additional 540,574 passengers to transit here between September and December, bringing the total to about 1.55 million passengers coming to the island.
As for the cruise arrivals, a total of 558 port calls have been made at the terminal up to August, with an additional 304 more to come from September to December.
“As for PPSB’s future plans, we have initiated the request for proposal exercise for the SPCT godown, former PPSB headquarters and Penang Yacht Club building.
“The primary objective of this initiative is to select a developer or operator who will lease, construct and manage these locations, transforming them into commercial areas that align with our port activities seamlessly,” the statement said.