SINGAPORE - 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 on Monday (Aug 17).
The credits will be called SingapoRediscovers Vouchers, 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.
"Many Singaporeans love to travel but are unable to do so now. 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.
"You may be surprised by what you discover."
The Jobs Support Scheme, which pays part of the wages for local workers, will be set at 50 per cent support for the hardest-hit aerospace, aviation, and tourism sectors the next seven months. The scheme had originally been set to end this month, with a final payout to firms in October.
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... I am prepared to provide further support to preserve core capabilities that we have built over the years, in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth."
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 any time soon due to safe management considerations.
"For these businesses, the Government will help them transition to other activities or ease their exit," he said, adding that the Ministry of Trade and Industry will provide more details on this.
The Straits Times reported last week that the Singapore Nightlife Business Association 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.