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Wuhan virus: STB to waive licence fees for hotels, travel agents and tour guides, and help with hotels’ cleaning costs

THE Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will waive licence fees for hotels, travel agents and tourist guides, as well as defray the cleaning and disinfection costs of hotels that had confirmed and suspected cases of the novel coronavirus.

This is the first step in a wider set of measures to help tourism-reliant businesses, which have already been hit by the spread of the virus, said STB on Sunday. Full details of the package of relief measures will be announced at the Budget on Feb 18.

STB chief executive Keith Tan said: “Over the past week, STB has been in close contact with our tourism partners to understand their difficulties and to assess the impact. We know the situation is likely to persist, and recognise we need to move quickly to support the industry and build confidence.”

More than 14,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, officially known as 2019-nCov, have been reported worldwide. The death toll has exceeded 300, with the Philippines reporting the first death outside of China on Sunday.

Chinese tourists account for around 20 per cent of Singapore’s total international visitor arrivals. In 2019, about 3.6 million Chinese travellers visited Singapore. 

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As part of the initial package, hotels where suspected and confirmed cases of the virus had stayed at will get help with their cleaning bills. These hotels have had to do enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfection after the cases were detected.

STB will cover up to 50 per cent of such third-party professional cleaning fees. This is capped at S$20,000 per establishment with confirmed cases, and up to S$10,000 per establishment with suspected cases. The financial assistance will be backdated to Jan 23, when the first case of coronavirus infection was detected in Singapore.

In addition, the Hotels Licensing Board will waive licence fees for hotels for the rest of the year. Similarly, travel agents and tourist guides whose licenses are due for renewal in 2020 will not need to pay to renew their licenses. Hotel operators typically have to pay between S$100 and S$400 to renew their licences yearly, depending on the number of rooms each hotel has.

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