When the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced its S$45 million marketing campaign in July, it raised eyebrows and criticisms over the amount of money being spent.

Then on Sept 16, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing announced that every Singaporean aged 18 and above in 2020 will be eligible to receive S$100 worth of SingapoRediscovers vouchers, which can be used on staycations, attraction tickets and tours.

That measure did not escape negativity either. Are Singaporeans so entitled and only concerned about ourselves that we cannot recognise the government’s efforts in boosting the economy?

Remember, as Minister Chan explained to journalists: “This is not a social assistance scheme. This is an economic scheme to help our tourist attractions to preserve their capabilities that have been built up over the years, while they consolidate capacity in the interim.”

In other words, these vouchers aren’t just to get Singaporeans out and about, it’s to get Singaporean businesses up and running again.

Support those who work in tourism

Night Safari Singapore is the world's first nocturnal zoo
Image by Shutterstock / AhBoon.Net

Since Phase 2 started, it has been a long and slow road to recovery for Singapore’s tourism industry. While the SingapoRediscovers campaign hopes to stimulate demand for tourist attractions, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that local consumption will not fully make up for tourism spending. In fact, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief Keith Tan even noted that it might be a while before the tourism industry recovers fully.

Nevertheless, Singaporeans showing up to spend time and money at entertainment outlets suffering from a lack of tourists will still give employees there some much-needed motivation.

Taufik Paiman, 32, who works as a part-time service leader at Night Safari, is supportive of STB’s campaign. He says: “The vouchers are a good platform to enhance our local tourism industry. I realise, even before Covid, that locals prefer to go overseas to spend rather than spending in our own country.

“Before Covid, people all over the world who come to Singapore will never want to miss a chance to visit the Night Safari. It is actually the first nocturnal wildlife park in the world, and yet locals don’t seem interested to visit.”

On a personal level, more guests to the park also means more working shifts for Taufik and his colleagues, and with support from Singaporeans during this time, he is able to keep doing what he enjoys.

‘Flights to nowhere’ face headwinds

Singapore Airlines aircraft
Image by Shutterstock / SpaceKris

With Singapore Airlines (SIA) looking to launch “flights to nowhere” to give its ailing business a fillip, it may be possible for passengers to use tourism credits to pay for such trips.

Although it is not the first time an airline carrier has launched such flights in an attempt to cope with the drastic fall in demand for air travel due to Covid-19, SIA’s plans have been met with flak for ignoring environmental concerns amid this pandemic.

“First, it encourages carbon-intensive travel for no good reason and second, it is merely a stop-gap measure that distracts from the policy and value shifts necessary to mitigate the climate crisis,” said awareness group SG Climate Rally to The Straits Times.

Perhaps, instead of increasing our debt on Earth’s resources, we could use the SingaporeRediscovers vouchers to try a real Boeing 737 flight simulator or indoor skydiving for a more eco-friendly option?

A treat for low-income families

Children touching and playing with pony in the farm with fun
Image by Shutterstock / A3pfamily

One of the criticisms of the scheme points out that trips to the “usual” tourist attractions like the Singapore Zoo, Sentosa and Gardens by the Bay have been “done to death” by most Singaporeans. Not only does that ignore the myriad options available (discovering Singapore is more than just going to those spots, people!), it also sounds a little like entitled thinking.

We forget that some children in lower-income families may not have had an opportunity to visit these places due to their financial situation.

So instead of being negative about the tourism vouchers because you feel that they are of no use to you, remember to be grateful that you had the financial means to experience these places even without those vouchers! Just because you don’t need them, does not mean others won’t.

Instead of spreading negativity on social media and deriding these vouchers, check yourself to see if what you’re posting reeks of entitlement, and stay silent if it does.

Constructive comments are nice to see though, just like one from Facebook user Foo Yiinppeng.

Tourism Voucher Comment on Facebook

Foo wrote: “I would like to convert the vouchers to cash to a charity of my choice. I wonder if that is possible.”

While that idea may run contrary to the intention of the vouchers, the sentiment isn’t misplaced.

As of now, it is unclear if the vouchers are transferable, but details are expected to be released in November. To curb people from selling the vouchers in online marketplaces like Carousell, however, safeguarding measures have to be considered.

Just like many kind Singaporeans who have donated their $600 Solidarity Payment to a charity of their choice, maybe STB can also look into allowing Singaporeans to donate or pledge the $100 tourism vouchers through a platform like Giving.sg so that disadvantaged groups can rediscover Singapore as tourists for a day.

Look at it with a bird’s eye view. There is nothing wrong with having a critical debate, but it has to come from a positive desire to make the best deal for everyone.

Try to empathise with those (people in affected industries, or those who are hurting economically) who see these vouchers as a form of respite in this pandemic, and if you still think, at the end of the day, there is nothing positive to add to the discussion, don’t get snarky, just stay quiet.

After all, loose lips sink trips.