Singapore’s government has allocated additional funds to boost local tourism in the country, setting aside SG$320 million for tourism credits that Singaporeans can use, deputy prime minister and finance minister Heng Swee Keat announced earlier this week. Known as the SingapoRediscovers vouchers, the credits are aimed at Singaporeans who love to travel but are unable to do so now. Additional details on the usage of the vouchers will be released next month by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
These funds come as the finance minister noted in his ministerial statement that foreign visitor arrivals had dried up due to travel restrictions, yet the government remained determined to support its tourism sector by encouraging local tourism. DPM Heng said that even though local consumption would not fully make up for tourist spending, he hoped Singaporeans would take the opportunity to explore the country’s local culture and heritage, nature, art, and architecture, adding that citizens could be surprised by what they discovered.
This spending initiative coupled with additional wage subsidies for local workers are the key thrusts of additional support for the battered tourism sector. The wage subsidies were part of the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), with one goal of protecting jobs. Under this, over SG$16 billion of JSS payouts had been disbursed, benefiting over two million local workers in more than 150,000 firms according to the ministerial statement.
DPM Heng added in his statement that in a bid to further help the economy, he would extend the JSS by up to seven months, covering wages paid up to March 2021. “However, we cannot sustain the JSS at current levels. It draws heavily on our reserves and risks trapping our workers in unviable businesses. Some sectors are also recovering faster than others. I will therefore adjust support based on the projected recovery of the different sectors,” he explained. Firms in the aerospace, aviation, and tourism sectors which had been hit the hardest would be provided support at 50% wage levels for seven more months. Meanwhile for the built environment sector, 50% wage support would be provided for two more months, before lowering to 30% for wages paid up to March 2021. Lastly, the arts and entertainment, food services, land transport, marine and offshore, and retail sectors would receive 30% wage support, also for seven more months, whereas for the large majority of the remaining sectors, 10% support would be provided for seven more months.
Despite these initiatives and additional funds, a small number of businesses, such as those in the nightlife industry still remain at risks of closing down, as restrictions prevent them from opening their doors to visitors. The government will help these group of businesses transition to other activities or ease their exit, the statement added.
Meanwhile, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recently rolled out the SingapoRediscovers campaign, setting aside SG$45 million for its supporting marketing initiatives. The campaign was the largest campaign introduced in Singapore to drive local demand, supporting local lifestyle and tourism business while encouraging Singaporeans and residents to explore different sides of Singapore. According to STB marketing chief, Lynette Pang, the campaign targeted two main types of consumers - the urban explorers who were out frequently and those who enjoyed travelling overseas.
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