SINGAPORE: Licence fees for hotels, travel agents and tour guides will continue to be waived through to the end of this year, as part of the Government’s efforts to nurse the recovery of the tourism sector.
These fees were earlier waived until the end of last year.
Hotel operators typically have to pay between S$300 and S$500 to renew their licences yearly, depending on the number of rooms they have, according to guidelines on the website of the Singapore Hotels Licensing Board.
Travel Agencies have a two-year licence and the renewal fee is S$400, based on guidelines from the Singapore Tourism Board. Tour guides pay S$72 for a licence, which is typically valid for three years.
In announcing this during the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Committee of Supply debate on Tuesday (Mar 2), Minister of State Alvin Tan said the hard-hit sector will likely continue to struggle given ongoing travel restrictions.
Help is already under way, with tourism businesses set to receive wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme for another six months until September this year. In 2020, the scheme aided more than 7,000 firms in the sector, said Mr Tan.
READ: Budget 2021: Jobs Support Scheme extended for worst-hit sectors as part of S$11 billion package
With international arrivals set to remain weak this year, the SingapoRediscovers campaign and vouchers scheme will continue to spur domestic demand which is “critical” for the sector.
Mr Tan noted that the Government is monitoring feedback and exploring ways to improve the scheme.
With COVID-19 changing the tourism landscape and travel norms, there are also efforts to help the sector transform and build up resilience against future disruptions.
Technology is one useful tool, according to Mr Tan, who cited how organisers of the Singapore Fintech Festival x Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology last year pivoted to a hybrid event with a 24-hour online platform.
Other moves include the Singapore Tourism Board’s SingapoReimagine initiative to position the country as an attractive and safe destination, and a new platform set to be launched this year for industry stakeholders to create and test new solutions.
The issue of tech talent was another focus of Mr Tan’s speech.
“While tech is key in the transformation process but at its core, requires talent,” he said in Parliament.
“Talent that can help us nurture a vibrant and competitive tech ecosystem that can hold our own against the world, and help Singapore remain relevant.”
In response to questions from Members of Parliament Jessica Tan (PAP-East Coast) and Foo Mee Har (PAP-West Coast) on plans to grow the local tech talent pipeline, Mr Tan said the Government, institutes of higher learning and the private sector play important roles.
For instance, the existing TechSkills Accelerator Programme equips individuals with skills in emerging tech and helps companies to upskill existing workers and hire professionals.
The local institutes of higher learning are also set to add 20,000 people to the local tech talent pool, while the Workforce Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s place-and-train programmes will provide another 6,250 individuals in functions such as software engineering and cybersecurity.
But besides building up local talent, Mr Tan said Singapore must also “attract global talent to complement (its) local workforce and fill skill shortages”.
“This is part of our strategy to develop a strong base of tech companies and talent to ensure that Singapore is competitive globally,” he added.
“This will also create more opportunities for locals to work in globally competitive teams and dynamics teams, alongside top tech talent from all over the world.”
One way to do so is through the new Tech.Pass scheme.
First announced in November last year, the scheme aims to attract “founders, leaders and technical experts with experience in established or fast-growing tech companies”. Five hundred slots will be made available from January 2021 when applications open, the Economic Development Board said in its press release then.
In response to another question from Ms Foo, Mr Tan said Tech.Pass has seen “keen interest” since applications opened in mid-January.
The Government continues to evaluate the scheme, he added.