A sum of S$22 million has been allocated by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to aid tourism business market their services as well as build demand for when the travelling market recovers.
Travel agents can now use their reserves to stay afloat amid the turmoil that battered the businesses due to the pandemic.
According to a statement by STB on Friday (24 April), the minimum financial requirement that must be met to keep their license has been lowered by 90 per cent until the end of 2020.
Businesses need to maintain a net value of S$10,000 if they are general license holders whereas niche license holders must maintain a minimum of S$5,000. STB explained that this will help businesses free up their cash flow during this difficult time.
The tourism sector is one the hardest affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. All attractions and entertainment venus, including casinos, museums, cinemas and nightclubs were told to shut down to observe stricter social distancing measures. Also, travel restrictions have put a stop to inbound and outbound travel.
STB pointed out that the sector has obtained government aid in the form of wage subsidies and other assistance. However, maintaining mindshare among international travellers amid the slowdown is also important, STB added.
To achieve this, a S$20 million Marketing Partnership Programme has been introduced by the STB. This initiative will cover up to 70 per cent of qualifying market costs.
On 1 April, the initiative was introduced to hotels and it will be extended in the second phase to include inbound travel agents, attractions and the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector. Applicants can email to find out more about the programme, and application for these businesses will open in early May.
To support content creators and create interesting Singapore stories, the STB has also formed a SG Stories Content Fund worth S$2 million.
For digital video content production, marking and distribution, the fund will support 90 per cent of qualifying costs. However, the cap is S$150,000 for each project. Applications for this will open from 1 May to 31 May. STB stated that outdoor filming is not allowed and all content must be created from home during this safe distancing measures period.
The STB has also worked together with LinkedIn, Google and Facebook to develop Web-based training for the industry. This will then allow businesses to upgrade during this lockdown period. In addition to this, there are tools such as platforms for data sharing as well learning about digital transformation.
Addressing the tourism sector on Friday, the STB Chief Executive, Keith Tan said in the sector has displayed resilience in the midst of tough adjustments. Support has come from many quarters to combat the pandemic, he added.
For instance, several hotels have provided facilities to house returning Singapore residents who need to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Some have gone the extra lengths to offer notes of encouragement or innovative means for guests to remain healthy, Mr Tan explained.
“A few weeks ago, many of our hotels also responded very quickly when we needed to house large numbers of Malaysian workers. Since then, we’ve also had to find more rooms to accommodate other groups of foreign workers, who are needed to keep the Singapore economy running,” he further remarked.
Mr Tan also noted that the Ministry of Health has also received support from many others in creating more facilities to care for different types of patients. This assistance includes providing staff to manage the facilities as well as providing bed linens or rooms.
On an individual level, there are also more than 50 tourist guides helping alongside TB staff as safe distancing officers, Mr Tan pointed out.
Regarding the STB’s new marketing initiatives, he noted: : “It’s important to continue to engage our worldwide audiences at this time, even when they are not here.”
With “billions of people are stuck at home, hungry for good and interesting content”, it is particularly important to find creative ways to engage audiences, Mr Tan reminded.
“I want you to think hard about how you can take advantage of these efforts and initiatives to help your businesses get ready for the time when international tourism picks up again,” he also advised.
In February, visitor arrivals dropped by half compared to 2019. After Singapore raised the disease outbreak response to orange and impose travel restrictions on Chinese visitors, the number of tourists totalled just 732,000.
In March, the figures were expected be reach record lows as the ban on all short-term visitors was imposed.
According to STR, a global data and benchmarking company, the country’s hotel occupancy dropped 53.6 per cent year-on-year to 38.3 per cent last month. Also, revenue available per room collapsed 62.4 per cent to S$81.35.
Based on STR’s Singapore database on Friday, the figures are the lowest on record.