Bangkok's iconic tuk-tuks are suffering because of the coronavirus, with tourists scarce on the streets, so some drivers have banded together to offer an economical new parcel delivery service.
About 50 tuk-tuk drivers have formed Tuk Tuk X and they unveiled their new business on Tuesday on a Facebook account, offering delivery of goods in Bangkok.
The charge starts at 180 baht per trip with multiple delivery stops possible. Conditions include size, a parcel can be no more than 90 centimetres high and 100cm long, but there are no weight limits.
Another condition is the pickup point must be within 10 kilometres of Victory Monument.
Service hours are 9am-6pm, depending on the distance, as long as it is in the capital.
"We have received about 40 calls so far," said Kitichai Siraprapanurat, chief executive officer of Navatas Hospitality, the firm which runs Smiling Tuk Tuk, on the first day of business.
Smiling Tuk Tuk offers trips for tourists, including tours to promote communities and other attractions. Visitors from Europe, South Korea, Hong Kong and China are among their main customers.
The first quarter of the year is normally money-making months as it is still the high season for tourism. But this year was different, with the coronavirus pandemic hobbling travel and confining tourists to home.
Naturally, they will also still carry people, but "all the tourists were gone after March 15," Mr Kitichai said.
Thailand is suffering from the tourism slide. Figures of arrivals in February showed 2 million entering Thailand, a 4% drop from 3.6 million a year ago, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Tourism is a key driver of the economy but Covid-19 has forced the Tourism Authority of Thailand to slash the projection this year to 33 million arrivals, a drop from almost 40 million last year.
Many tuk-tuk drivers have temporarily left their wheels and returned to their homes upcountry, due to the sharp decline of foreign passengers. The rest had to find a way to survive, and Tuk Tuk X came into play, focusing on small- and medium- enterprises that rely on e-commerce for business.
"Their pain point is the high cost of delivery, due to the weight and number of parcels," Mr Kittichai said. He feels Tuk Tuk X could be their solution, as it has no limit on weights and the vehicle can make multiple stops on a single trip, all at one price.
"We will take care of your products and parcels, as we would take care of our own lives," the announcement says on their Facebook page.