To help mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), together with the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) and the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union (FDAWU), have jointly announced various support measures for the tourism sector.
As part of the Stabilisation and Support Package announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on 18 Feb during the Budget 2020 statement, these measures were introduced today by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, and Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education, during a learning journey to Copthorne King’s Singapore. At the event, SHA and FDAWU had also signed an MOU to commit to working together to save jobs, build confidence and deepen capabilities of employees to prepare for recovery and growth. The MOU was facilitated by STB.
Such ground-up efforts and commitment from the employers and the union, together with the support measures rolled out by the various government agencies, make up the latest wave of relief measures to minimise potential retrenchment, upskill workers and redesign jobs to prepare the sector for when business demand returns. Businesses will also continue to receive support in defraying the costs involved in business transformation and job redesign, such as the Hotel Job Redesign Initiative and the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme.
Encouraging tourism sector to leverage downtime to reskill and upskill
To provide tourism companies with more support to upgrade the capabilities of their workers, STB will be enhancing the Training Industry Professionals in Tourism (TIP-iT) fund to fund up to 90% of training course fees and trainer fees, up from the previous cap of 50%. In addition, funding for absentee payroll will be increased from $4.50/hour to 90% of the worker’s hourly basic salary, capped at $10/hour.
In support of STB’s measures, SSG will also be providing time-limited, enhanced training support for the tourism sector. Employers in the tourism sector who send their workers for selected sector-specific training programmes in the next three months will receive: (i) enhanced Absentee Payroll (AP) support at 90% of hourly basic salary capped at $10 per hour, and (ii) enhanced course fee support at 90% of course fees. SSG will work through appointed training partners to ramp up training capacity for such programmes. Training programmes will include courses in digital marketing and SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace programmes.
To further provide targeted support for specific tourism industries, WSG has enhanced its Job Redesign Place-and-Train Programme for Hotel Industry and rolled out a new Digital Marketing Place-and-Train Programme. Over $5 million has been set aside for this effort.
Through the Job Redesign Place-and-Train (JR PnT) Programme for Hotel Industry, hotels can receive salary support of up to 70% (capped at $2,000 per month per employee) for the training duration to defray the costs involved to reskill and prepare their workers for redesigned and enhanced roles. The salary support duration has been extended to up to six months. It was previously up to three months. WSG will also work closely with SHA to redesign jobs and customise training plans according to the hotel’s business needs. Please see Annex A for more information on the JR PnT Programme for Hotel Industry.
The Digital Marketing Place-and-Train Programme will help MICE, Attractions and Tour & Travel (MAT) businesses adopt e-commerce and build up their digital presence for the longer term by absorbing the manpower and training costs involved to reskill and redeploy their workers into new digital roles through salary support and course fee funding. Please refer to Annex B for more information on the Digital Marketing Place-and-Train Programme.
Bolstering the impact for Tourist Guides with wage and training support
The outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent travel restrictions have resulted in tour group cancellations that have significantly affected tourist guides. To provide some financial relief during this challenging period, tourist guides will receive wage support of $1,000 over three months to assist with some of their basic living expenses. To be eligible, the tourist guide must be licensed, a Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident, and self-employed. Those who qualify for the wage support can submit an application through the Travel Agents and Tourist Guides Licensing System (TRUST) starting from 1 Mar 2020 to 30 Apr 2020. Tourist guides can expect to receive the wage support approximately within one month of the application. The wage support follows the waiver of tourist guide licence renewal fees for 2020, which STB announced on 2 Feb.
In addition to STB’s wage support and to encourage tourist guides to develop skills in critical areas such as digital literacy and deepen knowledge in specialised areas to of unique precinct areas in Singapore, WSG will be providing tourist guides with a Training Allowance of $600 when they complete 80 hours of training. By equipping themselves with these capabilities, tourist guides can expand beyond mass market guiding services into higher value-added activities such as becoming domain/precinct experts or even operating their own niche tours.
Mr Tan Choon Shian, Chief Executive of WSG said, “The tourism sector plays an important part in the Singapore economy. We hope that these measures to help companies defray training and wage costs through reskilling workers will give those operating and working in the sector some respite during this trying period. It also ensures that businesses reliant on tourism will have the manpower they need to meet business demand when it returns. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide targeted support to help shoulder their burden.”
Mr Keith Tan, Chief Executive of STB said, “While this is a tough time for tourism, we must position ourselves for a strong recovery. These measures will help us do that. I urge tourism businesses not just to retain their workers, but also to take advantage of the support measures to help them build new skills and capabilities. With the industry’s support, I am confident we will be quick off the blocks when the situation improves.”
Mr Ong Tze Ch’in, Chief Executive of SSG said, “We hope that companies and individuals in the tourism sector will use this enhanced training support and take the opportunity to upskill and reskill. Taken together with other SkillsFuture initiatives, we believe this will better position companies and individuals for the medium and long-term.”