Yesterday, a letter from a British tourist, George Vickers, was published on ST Forum yesterday (21 Aug).

He said that he and his wife first came on holiday to Singapore in 1997 and liked it so much that they have been back to Singapore several times.

“The cleanliness, low crime rate and courteous attitude of the people all make for a very pleasant stay,” he wrote.

However, this month, after an absence of three years, they returned to visit Singapore again. They were disappointed by some of the prices.

Apparently, they went to Boat Quay for seafood and felt that they were “ripped-off”.

He said, “We went to Boat Quay for a meal one evening and both of us chose sea bass without asking the price, so we were surprised when we got the bill and found that each fish had cost us $108.”

“In most countries, the equivalent of $216 for two fish would be considered a rip-off,” he added.

“It would be a pity if some establishments aim to make a quick buck off tourists and, in doing so, put them off returning. I suppose we have learnt a lesson to check prices before ordering. We will be back of course, but will probably avoid Boat Quay,” he concluded.

Following up on the story, the local media went to Boat Quay to interview some of the seafood restaurant owners.

The restaurant owners defended their pricing yesterday (21 Aug).

They say that the prices are a result of the area’s high rents, which have almost doubled in the last five years.

At Harvest Seafood Restaurant, live sea bass is sold for $7 per 100g. At Fuqing Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant and Haven Lobster & Seafood Restaurant, it costs $9 per 100g, while two outlets run by Forum Seafood Village charge $9.80 per 100g.

The usual prices for sea bass at other live seafood restaurants cost only between $2.80 and $5 per 100g.

One owner said, “It’s not fair to us… We are 30 to 40 per cent more expensive than a coffee shop, but everything is the same as what other restaurants here are doing.”

He said that his restaurant must pay more than $30,000 a month in rent, and that it is “just getting by”.

Over the past 5 years, rents for shophouses in the Boat Quay area have doubled. It can go as high as $14 a sq ft. A person in the propery industry said rents went up the most this year.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the CASE, said there is no real regulation of food prices in Singapore.

He said, “The prices of food items are usually set by the restaurants but are subjected to competition and market forces.”

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