SINGAPORE: The first day of redemption of the SingapoRediscovers vouchers drew mixed responses from Singaporeans, with several of them queueing on Tuesday morning (Dec 1) to book their staycations, attraction tickets and tours.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced in September that every Singaporean aged 18 and above in 2020 will receive S$100 in vouchers in a bid to bolster the local tourism industry that has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vouchers can be used between December this year and June next year, with a S$10 subsidy provided for children and youth tickets for attractions and tours.
Besides redeeming the vouchers online, those who require help doing so can go to locations across Singapore for assistance.
More than 11,900 bookings totalling about S$1.86 million in vouchers and payments were made as of 4.30pm, said STB in a statement on Tuesday night.
"There was a good mix of bookings across the hotels, attractions and tours industries, as well as health interest in cross-sector bundled packages," it added.
STB said more than 4,000 Singaporeans visited community clubs (CCs) on Tuesday to enquire about the vouchers.
When CNA visited Tampines East CC at 10.45am on Tuesday, where online platform Klook had set up its booking services, there were seven people queueing to redeem their vouchers.
The first in line was Mr Ng Beng Lam, 72, a part-time taxi driver who came with his wife and daughter. He arrived at the CC before 9am – more than an hour before in-person bookings began at 10am.
“Usually there will be a lot of people queueing for things like these. I was worried there would be a long queue and I would need to wait for a long time,” he told reporters in Mandarin.
Mr Ng redeemed three tickets for the Singapore Flyer and the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark Observation Deck, spending about S$50 and about S$60 respectively. He had wanted to visit the attractions for many years, but the cost deterred him, he said.
Overall, Mr Ng said he was "very satisfied" with the process.
READ: Hotels, attractions gearing up for launch of SingapoRediscovers vouchers, platforms expect surge in bookings
On why he came in person to book the tickets, Mr Ng said: “I don’t speak English, so it’s quite troublesome. I thought I would come to get help, which would be faster – finish everything on the spot.”
He added that he would come back to the CC to redeem his next ticket because it was convenient and the staff members were friendly. He noted that the entire booking took him about 20 minutes.
But not all found the process smooth sailing, with some encountering hiccups as they tried to book tickets.
Retiree Narayana Samy, 68, arrived at 10.45am, but left without redeeming anything. He had intended to book a six-night staycation at the Carlton Hotel Singapore, but felt that the prices offered were beyond what he expected.
As he only wanted to use his vouchers for a staycation, Mr Narayana said that he would not be redeeming his vouchers.
“It’s a good idea for people who want to go sightseeing, tours, but it’s not a good idea for hotels,” he said.
Taxi driver Song Hwee Tin, 61, booked tickets for the Singapore Flyer. She had intended to book tickets for Universal Studios Singapore (USS).
She came down to the CC to learn how the process worked so that she could help her neighbours redeem their vouchers, she said.
“But it’s very complicated, a lot of procedure to do,” she added. “Very, very troublesome.”
Klook had already sold out tickets for Universal Studios Singapore for the day that Mdm Song wanted to visit.
A commenter on Klook's Facebook post on Tuesday morning said tickets for USS were fully taken up until March. In response, Klook said at about 2.55pm that USS tickets were sold out due to "overwhelming response".
"We're working hard on bringing them back, and based on our last update, you'll be able to start purchasing them again tomorrow," Klook said in response to the commenter.
Speaking to reporters, Klook’s Southeast Asia marketing director Sarah Wan said that there were 260 merchants on its platform as of Monday night, but she expected this number to increase throughout the week.
“I think ... we were at the beginning a little bit concerned about the offline redemption, but I think so far the process has actually been pretty smooth," Ms Wan said, adding that there has been “quite an even spread” of bookings across hotels, attractions and tours.
She also noted a "heavy surge" in traffic on their booking sites between midnight and 2am on Tuesday. Ms Wan said there was a “significant reduction” in prices for tours, with 30 to 40 per cent off original prices.
Responding to customers who might find the process confusing, Ms Wan said: “It’s always an initial hurdle when it comes to getting used to a new process.
"But so far the feedback that we have received from our staff is that once they have actually tried using the SingPass app to redeem that first voucher, the process has actually been very smooth.”