As part of our Resilience Special this month, we speak to the captains of industry about their response to the Covid-19 pandemic and future challenges.
Dawn Teo is the Senior Vice President, Amara Hotels & Resorts, and Spokesman for Singapore Hotel Association (SHA).
What are the key service/product/operational enhancements and additions the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) has introduced to support hotels and their staff during this period?
The SHA is the collective voice of Singapore’s hotel industry, representing the interest of hotel owners and approximately 40,000 hospitality workers. Being the trade representative of hoteliers, SHA has taken a proactive approach since the crisis first surfaced in late January 2020. While individual hotel members adopt diversified strategies to managing their operations, SHA’s role is to facilitate dialogues on behalf of the industry at multi-agencies meetings.
On an institutional level, SHA has played a pivotal role in several initiatives. In the early days of COVID-19, SHA orchestrated a town hall for all members with the Singapore Tourism Board to address immediate impacts and concerns about the tourism sector. We appealed for the government’s financial provisions from February till now, resulting in a series of relief packages from the Unity Budget, to Resilience Budget and Solidarity Budget. We are heartened that the government has taken our appeal into consideration, resulting in favourable financial aid towards reduction to property tax, job support scheme and enhanced training subsidies.
Prior to the Circuit Breaker, SHA immediately created a “Staycations” web page to offer a one-stop resource for domestic tourism. This was a significant initiative because Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a mention of SHA’s Staycations page as a reference for parents planning the March school holidays.
As an industry body, we have also created various job re-design and job reskilling courses so that members can enhance their staff’s competencies during this downtime. Together with various government agencies, SHA was able to transfer our hospitality talents to sectors that require them like health ambassadors at essential facilities and supermarkets.
Looking beyond COVID-19, SHA has worked with various trade partners and government agencies for initiatives like a partnership with STR, a data benchmarking and analytics specialist, to bring benchmarking practices to members so that they can develop well-informed strategies to help drive hotel performance. As a beneficiary of the newly launched National Environment Agency (NEA) Food Waste Fund, Singapore’s hotel industry can set the benchmark in sustainable tourism, which has become a critical success factor.
Based on the above, why were these changes crucial?
These initiatives are crucial to long-term success of Singapore’s hotel industry beyond COVID-19. It is SHA’s primary objective to protect the interests of our stakeholders. We are committed to maintaining Singapore hospitality excellence long after this crisis. Every effort from financial aid to operational improvements must be considered so that our hotel members can have a stronger and faster recovery.
How else are you preparing for changes in the next few months when restrictions ease and Singapore gradually returns to our regular activities?
SHA recognises that the hospitality industry will change. We are working with different government agencies and our members on new operational guidelines and public health measures to ensure the health and safety of guests, both local and foreign. These include enhanced SG Clean standards, safe distancing guidelines at public areas, introducing relevant training modules to assist hotels with new tasks that will become critical like contact tracing for guests and in-room dining standards, as well as job redesign to prepare the workforce for the new normal.
Reflecting on lessons for businesses in Singapore, what is the one main take-away having now dealt with this unprecedented crisis?
It is crucial to ensure that all team members are proficient in the Emergency Response protocol. During a crisis, timely communication is of the essence. Learning our lessons from SARS, we were able to activate our crisis plan very quickly since late January 2020. From industry collaboration to government dialogues and media relations, SHA has learnt that timely and honest communications with all stakeholders are the best tools for surviving a crisis.