With effect from 7 October 2014, the Singapore Tourism Board Act (the “Act”) has been amended to tighten the regulation of tourist guides by the Singapore Tourism Board (the “STB”), enhance the powers of the STB to detect the offence of acting as a tourist guide without a licence and investigate such offences, enhance existing criminal penalties and create new offences relating to tourist guides and make miscellaneous changes for the better administration of the Act.
Further, a new provision has been introduced in the Act whereby all members, officers and employees of the STB, all committee members and all inspecting officers are deemed to be public servants for the purposes of the Penal Code.
Licencing of tourist guides
Following the changes to the Act, working as a tourist guide without a valid tourist guide licence is an offence liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$5,000 and, where the offence is a second or subsequent offence, a fine not exceeding S$10,000. It is also an offence to use the services of an unlicensed tourist guide and this offence attracts the same penalties.
Applications for a tourist guide licence are made to the STB and must fulfil the requirements as posted on the STB website. A licence may include a classification in accordance with the licence holder’s qualifications and is issued subject to certain conditions as to its use, contravention of which attracts a fine. A licenced tourist guide will also be issued with a tourist guide badge and the Act sets out the conditions in relation to the use of the badge, contravention of which will also attract a fine.
The STB can suspend or revoke a tourist guide licence but gives the licence holder the opportunity to provide written reasons why such an action should not be undertaken. In addition, there is an avenue for appeal to the Minister for Trade and Industry by the licence holder in such a situation.
The Act has been amended to give inspecting officers the power to enter and search premises where he has reasonable grounds to believe any individual is acting as a tourist guide within. Inspecting officers are empowered to seize or make copies of anything found and to take photos and make audio or video recordings in relation to the commission of an offence under the Act.
Inspecting officers are also allowed to require evidence as to identity, nationality or residential address and failing being so provided, the inspecting officer may then arrest the individual without a warrant. Similarly, inspecting officers have the power to examine orally any person who appears to be acquainted with any of the facts or circumstances of the case and he may serve a prescribed notice requiring court attendance.
In line with the changes made to the Act, the following subsidiary legislation have been issued and are effective from 7 October 2014:
- Singapore Tourism (Tourist Guides) Regulations 2014
- Singapore Tourism (Notice to Attend Court) Regulations 2014
- Criminal Procedure Code (Prescribed Law Enforcement Agency) Notification 2014
- Singapore Tourism (Composition of Offences) Regulations 2014