Asia

Many planning to use tourism vouchers for staycations and attractions

SINGAPORE – Mr Wilson Nah was planning to take his wife and their two children to either Hong Kong Disneyland or Malaysia’s Genting Highlands during the year-end school holidays.

But when Covid-19 cases spiked over the Chinese New Year period, the 47-year-old ruled out an overseas trip and is now eyeing a holiday in Singapore to save costs and keep his family safe.

So the announcement earlier this month giving more details of how the $100 worth of tourism vouchers each adult Singaporean is getting can be used was great news for Mr Nah, a purchaser in the supply chain business.

He and his wife are thinking of using the vouchers to offset some of the cost of a hotel staycation on Sentosa with their 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

“One hotel there that I know is family friendly is the Festive Hotel, as they have family rooms suitable for families with three to four people,” he said, adding that the hotel is close to attractions such as the Trick Eye Museum and Skyline Luge Sentosa which he intends to visit for the first time.

Like Mr Nah, many of the Singaporeans The Straits Times spoke to plan to use the tourism vouchers they are getting in December on a hotel staycation, attraction tickets or both.

In contrast, only three of the 25 citizens interviewed – aged 19 to 66 – said they would use the vouchers on local tours, or a combination of tours and staycations or attractions.

The Government said on Sept 16 that the vouchers, which will be given to all Singaporeans aged 18 and above, can be spent on staycations, tickets to leisure attractions and local tours approved by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to reopen or resume.

The $320 million worth of SingapoRediscovers Vouchers to be given out were announced by the Government last month. It hopes the vouchers will prop up the tourism sector battered by the pandemic.

As at last Monday, 214 hotels, 40 attractions and 445 tour itineraries have been given the green light to resume operations with safe management measures in place.

STB said specific details on how the vouchers can be redeemed will be announced in November.

But for people like Mr Nah, it is unclear if there are any conditions and restrictions tied to how the vouchers can be used, such as whether they can be used only on weekends or weekdays.

Other people told ST that they wanted to know if the vouchers could be transferred or pooled with others, and whether they could be used at shops or food and beverage outlets.

Some respondents like retiree Joyce Tan, 62, hope the vouchers can be transferred to their grandchildren to use. “As we are older, our legs get tired when we have to do a lot of walking if we visit the attractions,” she said.

On why many people are planning to use their tourism vouchers on attractions and staycations, Dr Michael Chiam, a senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said that “people really want to go on holiday overseas, but with the border closed, the next best thing is a staycation”.

Popular attractions cited by the interviewees included the Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park.

Some are looking to venture off the beaten path.

For instance, student Aisyah Yusoff, 24, is interested in visiting the Nerf Action Xperience centre in Marina Square, if it qualifies as an attraction the vouchers can be used on.

The centre allows customers to compete with one another in team games, among other things.

While hotels and attractions are top picks for many people to use their vouchers on, local tours are less popular.

Dr Chiam said this may be because “people always feel like they know their own backyard… but there are still a lot of places worth exploring”.

Full-time economics tutor Melvin Koh, 37, was one who was more keen on using his vouchers to take his family on tours to visit local industries and learn how they dealt with Covid-19.

He believes such behind-the-scenes tours would be a good learning opportunity for his two boys, aged four and seven, to pick up traits like resilience.

“It would be great to understand how, for example, a firm like Gardenia continued to produce bread every day while dealing with manpower constraints when Malaysian workers were unable to commute to Singapore,” said Mr Koh.

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