No-shows a no go for heritage trail organisers
HERITAGE trails have become more popular in recent years and the slots for these walks can be filled up pretty quickly.
Despite their growing popularity, some organisers of these events have reported a worrying trend - a rising number of no-shows.
Kwek Li Yong, founder of civic group My Community which runs three free tours a month in Queenstown, said attendance has dipped from 85 per cent in 2009 to as low as 60 per cent.
"People are defaulting on their online reservations. For some tours, we might have 80 people who sign up but just half show up," said Mr Kwek.
A small number who drop out will use the group's online booking system to cancel their application. However, most of the no-shows ignore the group's reminder e-mails or reply only an hour ahead to indicate that they will not be turning up, said Mr Kwek.
Geylang Serai's Integration and Naturalisation Champions Committee, which organises heritage trails in the estate, said its worst no-show incident was in February, when just three of 12 participants showed up for a trail covering sites such as the former Geylang Fire Station in Paya Lebar and the former Queen's Theatre on Guillemard Road.
Committee chairman Lee Hong Ping said the trail went on despite the small turnout.
Organisers said that the bad practice of not turning up despite signing up is a waste of resources.
Mr Kwek said: "My Community's heritage tours are the fruits of our volunteers' labour. Each tour takes almost two years of preparation."
He said this involves purchasing licenses for old images, title deeds and conducting oral history interviews. It also involves getting approvals from the authorities to gain access to restricted sites, as well as training guides. The civic group, a registered charity, has spent close to $60,000 on organising these free tours, which run between three and four hours.
In response to queries, a spokesman from the National Heritage Board (NHB) said that while guided trails at this year's Singapore HeritageFest were well-subscribed with an average attendance rate of 80 per cent to 100 per cent, there were cases where participants signed up for multiple free tours that overlapped with each other.
She said this "denies others the opportunity to experience the tours".
The spokesman of Tiong Bahru Heritage Volunteers, a group which runs 2.5 hour walks in the Tiong Bahru conservation estate for free, said that while turnout has been growing for them, they understand that free heritage tours are often the hardest hit as there is no monetary loss for dropouts.
The longer lead time between registration and the actual event might also lead to a higher dropout rate, he added.
He said: "People may have signed up at a time when their schedules were still uncertain and when things happened along the way, the first activity to give up would be the free ones."
The NHB spokesman said as many Singapore HeritageFest's programmes are led by community volunteers, the board "hopes that participants will exercise responsibility in turning up for the programmes they sign up for".
My Community's Mr Kwek added: "The onus lies on the participants to reply to our reminders to inform us that they are unable to attend the tours so that we can forward their tickets to the hundreds on the waiting list."