Singapore

Singaporeans to get $320 million in tourism vouchers

Move is part of campaign to boost domestic spending at eateries, shops, hotels and leisure attractions

Singaporeans will be given $320 million in "tourism credits" to spend domestically as part of a campaign to prop up local businesses, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced yesterday.

The credits will be called SingapoRediscovers vouchers. They are named for the $45 million campaign launched last month to drive local spending to Singapore's eateries, shops, hotels and leisure attractions.

This spending initiative and a seven-month extension to wage subsidies for local workers are the key thrusts of additional support for the battered tourism sector.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, noted in his ministerial statement that foreign visitor arrivals have dried up due to travel restrictions.

"Local consumption will not fully make up for tourist spending, but I hope Singaporeans will take the opportunity to explore our local culture and heritage, nature, art, and architecture," he said, adding that more details on the vouchers will be released next month.

More targeted help may also be on the way for businesses in the arts and culture and sports sectors, which will also take much longer to resume full activities, Mr Heng said.

"These are important sectors that strengthen our social fabric and diversity," he said.

Things are looking less rosy for the nightlife sector, however. Mr Heng noted that a small number of businesses, such as those in the nightlife industry, may not be able to open anytime soon, due to safe management considerations.

"For these businesses, the Government will help them transition to other activities or ease their exit," he said.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said more details on this will be provided shortly.

The Straits Times reported last week that the Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA) had appealed to the Government to either allow all nightlife operators to reopen, or to help them to pivot, hibernate or liquidate.

About a third of the association's 320 members remain shut as they do not have licences that allow them to operate as food and beverage establishments.

SNBA president Joseph Ong told The Straits Times that the extension of wage subsidies came as a relief, though the industry is awaiting details on other avenues of support.

"The way that DPM put it was exactly what we were proposing: help us pivot or exit."

He hopes that SNBA's suggestion for business consultants to help firms determine their next steps will be taken on board.

"Some may think closing may be a good thing, but maybe there's a chance to pivot. And for some who want to pivot, it might be best to close," he added.

Dr Kevin Cheong, chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions, said the SingapoRediscovers vouchers will act as an indirect form of discounting for businesses, as some had said slashing prices would be difficult with capacity limits in place.

Like other lifestyle operators, he expressed hope that the credits would be spread out to help smaller businesses across sectors, rather than having the bulk being used to offset staycation packages.

TOURISM & TRAVEL