Thai K-pop fans are paying for banner ads on tuktuks to help struggling drivers during the pandemic.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March last year, tuktuk drivers who used to earn ten times the average daily wage in tourist hub Bangkok have been left to scrape by or many have lost their jobs.
However, through the start-up service ‘Tuk Up,’ fans could have their idol’s pictures posted on the iconic three-wheeler which then goes around the city.
During its initial launch, the service was able to help dozens of drives recover from the loss of income. Now, it is helping to support more than 300 drivers across the capital with the help of K-pop obsessed fans.
University student Thitipong Lohawech, 21, who designed Tuk Up said: ‘The fans are distributing income to the grassroots, which helps drive social change and support the economy.’
K-pop fans in Thailand had previously gone to extreme lengths to show their devotion to the idols from Korea – pooling their money and paying high prices for ads on the city’s BTS and MRTs systems. However, the transport services caused upset during anti-government protests last year when they closed their doors in order to stop the rallies across the city.
Thitipong added: ‘The fans are happier to support tuktuk drivers than they are to give money to the large corporate organisations.’
Thailand has recorded 561,030 Covid-19 cases and 4,562 deaths as of July 29. Plans to re-open the country to tourists involve ‘sandbox’ quarantine areas where vaccinated visitors can stay while roaming around beaches and bars for 14 days.
However, economists fear that it could be up to five years before the country’s tourism industry returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Two years ago tourism made up an estimated 21 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, generating 1.8 trillion baht in revenue. However, the country’s National Economic and Social Development Council predicted that it could be another five years before similar numbers are seen.
Analysts said that between now and 2026, around seven million workers will continue to be affected by the economic harm from the Covid-19 pandemic.