The Straits Times/Asia News Network
A man stands on the Supertree Grove skyway at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore on September 9, 2020, after the popular tourist attraction was reopened to the public on September 7 following closures due to restrictions to halt the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)
Singaporeans aged 18 and above this year will each receive SG$100 (US$73.54) in digital vouchers to spend on staycations, tickets to leisure attractions and local tours.
The SingapoRediscovers Vouchers will be accessible via SingPass from December and can be used to offset ticket purchases and hotel stays until the end of June next year. Permanent residents will not be eligible for the vouchers.
Adult Singaporeans will also be able to purchase up to six subsidized tickets for attractions and tours - each at $10 off - for those under 18 from December to the end of next June.
Announcing the details on Wednesday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said the duration of the voucher program is timed to coincide with the March, June and December holidays and to spread out demand in between.
The initiative is not a social assistance scheme, he added.
"This is an economic scheme to help our tourist attractions preserve their capabilities that have been built up over their years while they consolidate the capacity in the interim," Chan told reporters during a visit to the Jurong Bird Park.
The $320 million SingapoRediscovers Vouchers scheme was first announced last month and forms part of the government’s efforts to prop up the tourism sector, which has been decimated by travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vouchers, which will come in denominations of $10, can be used at all licensed hotels, leisure attractions and for local tours by operators that have received approval from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to reopen or resume.
There are currently 214 hotels, 40 attractions and 438 tour itineraries that have been given the green light to resume operations with safe management measures in place. They include Singapore's four wildlife parks, a number of activities and hotels on Sentosa and guided tours of Pulau Ubin.
The vouchers complement the $45 million SingapoRediscovers marketing campaign, launched in July to encourage locals to holiday at home and support local businesses.
More than 200 deals and packages have been launched so far, and the vouchers will give Singaporeans more incentive to rediscover their backyard, STB said on Wednesday.
On the expected impact of the total $365 million budgeted for the campaign and vouchers, Chan said businesses outside the tourism sector are expected to see a boost as well, as spending spills over into food and beverage (F&B), for example.
“As to the exact extent of the catalytic effect, it will be a bit hard to predict at this point in time, but we hope that it is at least a few times what we have provided for in the budget,” he said.
STB chief executive Keith Tan said that while F&B and retail businesses are part of the marketing campaign, the core beneficiaries of the vouchers will be hotels, attractions and tours, which depend on tourists for at least 70 to 80 percent of revenues.
The tourism board said specific details on how the vouchers can be redeemed will be announced in November.
While STB expects that the redemption process for the vouchers "will adopt a digital mode by default", it will provide support for those who have difficulties using such methods.
Details are being worked out, and the STB will be calling a tender on Wednesday to appoint platforms for the redemption of vouchers.
There are no plans to limit the number of vouchers that can be used in a single transaction, or to set out how they should be used, Tan said.
The $10 vouchers can be spread out across separate visits, or used up at once on a staycation package, for example.
Asked about the possibility of tourism operators increasing prices to maximize takings, Tan noted that in other countries where such government vouchers have been issued, there have been instances of this.
STB will work with other government agencies including the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore to ensure that this does not happen here, he said.
“Ultimately we will retain the ability to include a merchant or to pull the merchant off this scheme if they demonstrate behavior that is not desirable.”
Industry players have said that the vouchers will act as a form of indirect discounting for businesses, as lowering prices is a challenge with capacity limits on their operations in place.
Higher capacity limits for attractions
However, tourist attractions - which are currently restricted to 25 percent of their operating capacity at any one time - can apply to increase this to 50 percent from Friday.
They can also seek STB's permission to scale up the capacity at their outdoor shows to 250 people, up from 50 currently. But shows must be split into five zones with a maximum of 50 people in each, with safe distancing between groups as well as zones.
This means the limit for outdoor shows at attractions will be in line with the maximum number of participants soon to be allowed at approved Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) events.
STB said on Wednesday that the easing of rules for attractions comes as operators have been effective at preventing and dispersing crowds, as well as maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
All attractions have also introduced online booking systems for timed entry or pre-booking of activities to monitor and control visitor numbers, it said.
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