Even with Singapore's visitor arrivals plummeting to their lowest in about four decades due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hotels have remained resilient, taking on new roles and catering to new demands.
Operating as venues for those serving stay-home notices (SHNs), offering staycations and work-from-hotel packages, and redeploying staff to other roles were some of the ways that hotels have adapted to adversity, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan yesterday.
As at the end of last year, more than 70 hotels had welcomed over 160,000 guests serving SHN, with the support of over 2,300 workers in the hotel industry, he added.
Other hotels took the chance to upskill and train their staff during this lull period, reflecting the value they placed on their workers.
"Such commitment to self-improvement will continue to reap rewards," he said.
Mr Tan was speaking at the National Kindness Awards - Service Gold ceremony, where 120 hospitality staff from 68 hotels were recognised for their outstanding service.
Award winner Mohammad Nurul Amin Mohsinul Azam, 36, who is from Bangladesh, is a junior supervisor at Conrad Centennial Singapore.
He translated letters and signages in the hotel into Bengali for Bangladeshi guests who were under quarantine. For instance, he informed them that they had to take their temperature and download the TraceTogether app.
His commitment to his job did not waver, even when his mother died last year. He was unable to attend the funeral due to travel restrictions. "We have a responsibility to both our jobs and our family. I could not go back but I prayed for her," said Mr Amin.
The hospitality and tourism sector has been badly hit by the pandemic due to travel restrictions.
Visitor arrivals fell by 86 per cent last year, while tourism receipts declined by 78 per cent in the first three quarters of last year.
Noting that many hotel staff such as Mr Amin have been separated across borders from their families, Mr Tan recognised the sacrifices they made to continue serving guests.
Hotel staff have also taken on new duties, such as hotel managers doubling up as servers in food and beverage roles, or event management staff assisting with bartending.
"These are measures that our hotels had to undertake in order to open up and deliver a positive guest experience," said Mr Tan.
The Service Gold award, which is in its 26th edition, is organised by the Singapore Kindness Movement and the Singapore Hotel Association. This year's ceremony was held at Furama RiverFront.
During the event, hoteliers shared how they have adapted their operations to serve Singaporeans, as more of them have gone on staycations since phase three began on Dec 28.
The Warehouse Hotel general manager Tarun Kalra noted how over 40 high-touch points were identified in the hotel, which had to be cleaned regularly.
Ms Jacqueline Poey, hotel manager of Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford, said the hotels now offer contactless check-in, reducing check-in times and contact between staff and guests.
"There is a separate queue for mobile check-ins... Normally a check-in is between three and five minutes, but now, a (mobile) check-in is less than one minute," she said.