Singapore consumers express concern over 'complicated' tourism voucher redemption process

A chief concern was the "extremely complicated redemption process".
A chief concern was the "extremely complicated redemption process".ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Consumers have expressed concerns that the scheme to give Singaporeans $100 worth of tourism vouchers to spend on the island may be too inconvenient for some to use.

From next month, those aged 18 and above will receive online SingapoRediscovers Vouchers to spend on local attractions, hotel stays and tours.

While many have welcomed the move, consumers who spoke to The Straits Times have also expressed worries after more details were announced by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Monday (Nov 23).

A chief concern was the "extremely complicated redemption process", with some saying the inconvenience involved would deter people from spending the vouchers - especially the elderly.

Available in denominations of $10, the vouchers can be redeemed online through five authorised booking partners: Changi Recommends, GlobalTix, Klook & UOB Travel Planners, Traveloka and Trip.com.

"It's a good idea, but the way it's being implemented seems odd," said engineer Raju Govindasamy, 49, who intends to use the vouchers for a family outing at a local attraction. "When you involve multiple merchants and do not have a centralised site from which vouchers can be redeemed, you make it much more difficult for consumers, however willing they are, to go about the process."

Small business owner Lim Sioe Hwan, 32, said: "It would make much more sense for there to be just one STB-run website, where people can simply visit it and redeem the vouchers for specific packages, rather than put more pressure on the customer to jump through hoops just to redeem a voucher.

"No doubt that each merchant will have a variety of packages, but rather than being spoilt for choice, it just makes things more confusing."

Mr Lim added that his parents, who are in their late 60s, were "befuddled" by the redemption process.

University student Lynn Koh, 22, also suggested that there be a "centralised search engine" of sorts, where all the deals and features available could be showcased with the relevant links.

"Without a central point of comparison, or room for convenient comparison and contrast, it's even harder for customers to make discerning choices. If a lot of homework is involved just to use a voucher, it takes the ease out of what could be a fairly simple process," she said.

Some customers also expressed worries that older and less IT-savvy Singaporeans would find it difficult to redeem the vouchers - particularly with there being specialised physical redemption counters run by each merchant.

"It is good that there are counters for those who find e-payment and online redemption difficult, but it causes confusion when there are specific counters for specific deals," said Mr Loke Kam Wing, 77, who is looking to use his vouchers for a day out with his wife, who is also in her 70s.

"This causes problems because I'll not only have to do research online about what deals to get in advance, but I'll also have to find the corresponding counter, which might or might not be close to me at all."

For Mr Goh Min Kwang, 45, who works in banking, the primary concern is the possibility that "unscrupulous merchants" might "jack up the price" of packages or activities, negating the value of the $100 tourist voucher.

"I am hoping that there can be more transparency and intense price regulation. It would be terrible if prices shoot through the roof due to demand or other factors. If that happens, the $100 in vouchers wouldn't count for much other than to cover this price increase," Mr Goh said.

STB said it takes a serious view of practices such as profiteering and said it will penalise merchants found to have done so.

However, many people the ST spoke to were very happy with the prospect of tourism vouchers - which can be used at all Singapore Tourism Board (STB) approved hotels, leisure attractions and local tours - and did not mind the extra effort involved to procure them.

Ms Sakinah Mohd, 44, is considering spending the vouchers on a family staycation on Sentosa to celebrate her daughter Maia's eighth birthday, which falls on Dec 20.

"This initiative helps to raise awareness of the different attractions Singaporeans can visit," she said.

The vouchers cannot be transferred between individuals or combined with other people's vouchers. But Ms Sakinah added that she does not mind because they "allow those whose livelihoods and incomes have been hit by Covid-19 to go on a holiday and enjoy time with family".

Full-time economics tutor Melvin Koh, 37, a father of two boys aged four and seven, said: "The Government has given Singaporeans this money to appreciate our country's cultural gems while helping to subsidise operation costs for attractions and hotels. It is fair that we are not allowed to stack or resell these vouchers for personal financial gain."