Merlion Park lensman riles tour guides

A man believed to be an unlicensed photographer has been offering his services to tourists for a fee at the popular Merlion Park.

But tour guides are unhappy as they say he holds up the itinerary of large groups of tourists when his customers wait for the photographs to be printed out, reported Chinese evening newspaper Lianhe Wanbao yesterday.

About a year ago, a tour guide who wanted to be known only as Mr Pan noticed that a photographer had started offering his services at the park. Tourists were able to receive their printed photos on the spot.

He said: "It's no problem that he sets up a stall offering photography services, but we do not know how to answer tourists when they ask if it's legal or not. He does not have a permit but it is not illegal. However, if there are any problems with the photos and he does not turn up, who are we to go to?"

Mr Pan added that there are designated photography counters at other tourist locations such as Sentosa, where tourists can take photos and approach staff for help should any problems arise.

He added that tourists waiting for their photos at Merlion Park often delay the tour group.

When a Wanbao reporter visited the park on Wednesday, he spotted the photographer sitting in one corner. During the 30 minutes, business was slow, with tourists requesting to have their photo taken only after 15 minutes.

When approached, the photographer, who spoke Mandarin with a strong accent, said that his photos cost $5 per piece and he would guarantee customer satisfaction before printing them.

He appeared angry when asked if he had a licence and chased the reporter away loudly before moving his equipment to another location.

It is understood that a member of the public has reported the photographer to the police for taking unlicensed pictures for tourists, according to Wanbao.

His customers have varying opinions on his services: An Indonesian tourist found the price of two photos for $10 reasonable. However, another tourist from Hong Kong felt that it was a bit steep as similar services are provided in Hong Kong at $5 for two photos.

A tourist from Taiwan known only as Mr Shi, 19, said that everyone has smartphones these days and it is easy to take photos, so professional photography services are unnecessary.

When contacted, the Singapore Tourism Board said that the two Merlion statues are within its authority but other areas in the park are not within its jurisdiction.

When asked if it is illegal for the photographer to offer his services, a senior lawyer told Wanbao that it is a grey area and falls under an "undefinable legal risk".

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