SINGAPORE - Some 45,000 people watched the live stream of River Hongbao's opening performances last Wednesday (Feb 10).
Held at Gardens by the Bay this year, the event drew a much larger audience than previous editions, despite the safe management measures put in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, organising committee chairman Tan Aik Hock said: "Going online has helped us to reach out to far more people than (with) a traditional stage and audience setting, which would seat a maximum of a few hundred people."
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest of honour and was at the venue for an opening ceremony.
About 1,200 people were in the audience for River Hongbao's opening last year, held at The Float @ Marina Bay.
The festival this year will run until Tuesday, with pre-recorded getai performances on Sunday and Monday nights. Getai stars Wang Lei and Lin Ruping feature in Sunday's performance.
Only a fraction of the usual crowds are at River Hongbao this year, though traffic to the festival website has soared.
Between last Wednesday and Saturday, 23,000 people visited Gardens by the Bay for River Hongbao.
Last year, 520,000 people had visited in the first four days of the festival.
"The smaller numbers are in the interests of safety, and (this) is due to strict measures to control crowds to 2,000 or less within stipulated time slots," said the River Hongbao organising committee.
Although entry to the festival is free, it is ticketed as part of crowd control measures.
Up to 2,000 visitors are allowed per time slot, which is either 90 minutes or two hours long. Up to four people can be registered per booking.
Those visiting the festival have to book time slots online and will be assigned to one of three entrances to Gardens by the Bay.
More than 100 volunteers, safe distancing ambassadors and uniformed auxiliary police officers have been deployed to prevent overcrowding.
Those unable to attend the festival at the venue can still join the festivities online.
More people visited the River Hongbao website this year in the week before the festival began, and on its first four days. Website visitorship was 40 per cent higher than in the corresponding period last year.
River Hongbao's official Instagram and WhatsApp sticker packs have also been viewed 727,000 times.
River Hongbao is organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese Media Group, Singapore Tourism Board and the People's Association.