When the pandemic hit, the tourism industry was badly affected. So the Government came up with SingapoRediscover vouchers (SRVs) — not only to give Singaporeans a chance to visit local attractions, but also to give our tourist spots a boost.
Under the scheme, every Singaporean aged 18 and above is given $100 worth of credits to spend, which comes in denominations of $10.
While SRVs remain non-transferrable, the public’s concerns have been heard. Several authorized booking platforms have collaborated with social organisations to allow Singaporeans to donate their SRVs — as of April, about 21,000 Singaporeans have donated their SRVs.
Tourism for Good
With the deadline for SRV usage edging closer in these coming months, five organisations — Actxplorer, LDR Technology, Kairos Project Ventures, Mastereign Group and Training Vision Institute — have started a new initiative called Tourism for Good.
While Actxplorer primarily organises unique tours such as their well-received triad trails, LDR Technology helps to incorporate 3D augmented reality and 360° visuals into the trail, giving consumers an interactive and immersive experience. Both Training Vision Institute and Mastereign Group are authorized training institutions, who help to train adults and youths respectively. On the other hand, Kairos Project Ventures provides the BMNet platform to connect and support businesses that aim to create social good and uplift communities.
While recognizing the good intentions behind the SRV initiative, Tourism for Good aims to address the issue of unutilized SRVs by blessing underprivileged families served by Lakeside Family Services.
Established in 1993, Lakeside Family Services has expanded to several service centres and childcare centres across Singapore, serving various vulnerable groups such as underprivileged families, seniors, women with unsupported pregnancies, as well as the incarcerated and their families.
While the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, these underprivileged families have found it particularly challenging. Covid restrictions like last year’s circuit breaker and the recent Phase 2 Heightened Alert measures have led to increased family conflict and constraints with home-based learning.
Unemployment was also a struggle, with local businesses shrinking or closing. Andrew Tay, 67, the founder of Lakeside Family Services, shares with the Pride that seniors are disproportionately affected by social isolation and financial worries.
Andrew tells The Pride, “They were already quite isolated; and now with all the restrictions, they have become more isolated. This can create additional mental issues as well.”
With all these Covid-related stresses, Tourism for Good hopes to spread joy by giving Lakeside families an opportunity to experience local tourist attractions such as Gardens By The Bay, River Safari or the Singapore Zoo — places these families are unlikely to visit due to the cost.
Even though visits to these attractions are hampered by recent Phase 2 Heightened Alert measures, donated SRVs can still be used after restrictions are lifted.
Peter Tay, 48, project co-ordinator of Tourism for Good and project manager of Actxplorer, says that this would serve as a great family outing, especially to help deal with pandemic stresses.
He tells The Pride: “There are even people who have never been to Orchard Road, so we really want to take them out to experience the things that normal Singaporeans have experienced.”
As SRVs are given only to Singaporeans aged 18 and above, this initiative also hopes to allow younger beneficiaries to visit these places with their families.
The donated SRVs will not only fund a typical trip to these tourist attractions — Tourism for Good goes the extra mile to ensure a memorable experience for their beneficiaries.
In addition to providing transport and a guided tour, when Phase 2 Heightened Alert measures are lifted and dining-in is allowed again, Tourism for Good will also take beneficiaries to eat at a restaurant near one of the attractions — to support the struggling F&B industry at the same time.
Aside from the usual tourist attractions, one of Tourism for Good’s unique offerings is an opportunity for beneficiaries to go on a triad trail walk organised by Actxplorer.
These walks, which are open to the public as well, are led by ex-offenders, who will take participants into older parts of China to discover the world of hidden secret societies, red-light districts and opium dens.
Given that many of the youths at Lakeside Family Services are at-risk youths or have committed minor crimes before, such a unique tour led by ex-offenders could be particularly insightful, and can prove to be a way to bond with them.
Sebastian Wang, 38, who is in charge of community partnerships at Lakeside Family Services tells The Pride, “It’s not just entertainment, but it could benefit them by giving them an experience with a learning angle.”
Reaching out to overseas Singaporeans
While the Tourism for Good founders acknowledge the good intentions by the government to support the struggling local tourism industry, they realise that there are many SRVs that will get wasted.
Melvyn Mak, 67, one of the co-founders of Actxplorer, shares that the 200,000 or so Singaporeans still working or studying overseas are unlikely to return just to spend their SRVs. Since SRVs are not transferable, chances are they would be wasted.
Furthermore, there are also Singaporeans who, for various reasons, may be reluctant to use their SRVs. Melvyn says: “That’s why we thought, maybe we should change the narrative. Why not help those who can go, want to go, but don’t have the means to go?”
That was what inspired Tourism for Good to partner with Lakeside Family Services to call for people to donate their SRVs to benefit underprivileged families.
Even though these SRVs are used to pay for the tour, rather than seeing it as a one-off day outing, Tourism for Good considers it an extension of the services Lakeside Family Services provide for their clients.
Melyvn tells The Pride: “We hope that this whole initiative can grow, and Singaporeans will use this opportunity to do good.”
Peter says that he has approached several associations to reach out to overseas Singaporeans and raise awareness for Tourism For Good. One of which is Singapore Global Network, who has helped to promote their causeto their 5,000 subscribers on Telegram.
Peter says, “It’s not really difficult to convince them, because we are touching the hearts of people to donate, and in return touching lives.”
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Local groups chipping in too
While Tourism for Good has been mostly reaching out to groups of overseas Singaporeans, it is also working with local organisations such as Lion Befrienders, Rotary Club and the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.
Next year, it hopes to continue this initiative with future donations even after SRVs have become a thing of the past. It is exploring the possibility of working with social organisations like the Centre of Fathering, as well as Healthserve, which works with migrant workers.
Melvyn says: “This is not just something that can benefit our efforts, but it can also have a ripple effect and open up the idea of ‘tourism for good’ for others as well. We hope to raise awareness of charities, and that the idea of ‘doing good’ continues on.”
How to Donate
If you like Tourism for Good’s initiative, you can donate your unused SRVs to Lakeside Family Services here. Each tour is priced at $100; currently it is not possible to donate in denominations of $10 as each donation is matched to an individual beneficiary.
As of 26th July, there have been 40 donors, an impressive number given the initiative is still in its early stages as it was pioneered at the start of this month.
There are also other organisations where you can donate your SRVs to.
If you wish to support other low-income families, you could also donate to Life Community Services Society (LCSS) for their beneficiaries to take a trip to the S.E.A. Aquarium, USS or Adventure Cove. LCSS is a non-profit, social service agency that aims to empower youth and families through care and mentorship, serving over 1,000 low-income families and vulnerable families who have at least one parent presently or formerly incarcerated.
If you believe in the importance of mutual aid and empowerment, you could consider donating to Ray of Hope, a crowdfunding charity that gives 100% of its funds to various vulnerable groups. In doing so, you will fund tours in different places across the nation such as Telok Ayer, Singapore River and Balestier.
If you would like to show some appreciation for the migrant workers who have built our country, donate to Its Raining Raincoats to give them the opportunity to view the fruits of their labour from a bird’s eye view on the Singapore Flyer. This is especially so when the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for them, with stringent restrictions imposed on movement within Singapore. Right now, they are only allowed to visit their designated recreational centres to take a break from work and their dormitories.
So, if you have some leftover SRVs with no idea what to spend it on, why not donate them and make someone else’s day?