SINGAPORE, Jan 1 — If it were not for her 91-year-old mother, Tan and her sister would not have known that yesterday (December 31) was the deadline to redeem their SingapoRediscovers Vouchers.

The elderly woman reminded her daughters about it, and the trio braved the afternoon downpour to join a line of other Singaporeans at the Marine Parade Community Club in hopes of using the vouchers for a staycation at a city-centre hotel.

“It would have been much better if we could have used it for food, but since we are only given a choice between a sightseeing tour or a hotel stay, we thought it would be better for our mother to choose the hotel,” said Tan, a 60-year-old retiree who declined to reveal her full name.

Tan and her family were at the end of a queue of almost 30 people, mostly older Singaporeans, when TODAY spoke to her at about 1.30pm yesterday.

She said that she was aware that the bookings could be made online, but it was too troublesome for her sister and their mother because it required them to use a SingPass digital identity, which they did not have.

Last month, the Government extended the validity period for the vouchers from the end of this month to March 31 next year, provided that the vouchers are redeemed by December 31.

Before this latest extension, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) previously extended the deadline by six months from June to December this year.

The scheme, announced in August last year, gives each adult Singapore citizen S$100 worth of vouchers, with the aim of boosting domestic tourism.

As of December 1, about 1.4 million Singaporeans had used their vouchers at least once. This is less than half of Singapore’s adult population.

With the increase in bookings this month, STB expects more than 1.6 million Singaporeans to use their vouchers at least once by Friday.

STB told TODAY that the scheme would end as scheduled on Friday, after which any unused vouchers would be forfeited.

Reminding Singaporeans of the deadline on Thursday, the agency said on Facebook that its counters and the five authorised online booking platforms had been experiencing high traffic volumes.

Indeed, three of the authorised platforms — Trip.com, Klook and GlobalTix — said they had seen an increase in voucher redemptions recently.

Trip.com recorded a more than 200 per cent spike in voucher-related bookings in the past two weeks, while Klook registered a 110 per cent rise.

GlobalTix did not provide figures but said: "We’ve definitely seen an increase in redemptions as well as those directed to the charities."

TODAY reported earlier this week that some charities here had also seen a spike in donations of the vouchers in recent weeks to benefit migrant workers and the less privileged.

The dash to make bookings on the last day of redemptions meant a long wait for some who wanted to do it at a counter, instead of online.

One woman, who declined to be named, said that she and her brother waited nearly three hours to get to the front of the queue after they arrived at the Marine Parade Community Club around 11am.

Asked why they did not use their vouchers earlier, others who showed up at the counters said that they intended to, but the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered their plans.

Teacher Angeline Ng, 48, said: "We were hoping to go on a tour of the Southern Islands earlier this year, but then the Delta variant appeared and we had to cancel our plans."

Rather than letting the vouchers go to waste, she and her 80-year-old mother intended to book a package that combines a visit to paid attractions at the Jewel Changi Airport retail and lifestyle complex with a meal at a restaurant.

Still, not everyone who turned up at a counter yesterday was able to redeem their vouchers.

Agnes Goh, a 64-year-old administrator, and her two friends arrived at the Yew Tee Community Club around 3.30pm, only to find out that staff members manning the counters were experiencing technical difficulties and could not help process bookings.

One of the staff members suggested that the group head to a nearby community club to redeem their vouchers.

When TODAY asked if that was her plan, Goh said: “We give up. It’s a shame. It’s raining, so I’m just going home to rest.” ― TODAY