Crowds thinner than usual at Sentosa beaches on first day with online booking requirement

At Palawan Beach yesterday, guests were issued wristbands for admission after they presented their confirmation e-mail for verification. Beachgoers yesterday at Palawan Beach on Sentosa had plenty of space to themselves, with the roll-out of an onlin
Beachgoers yesterday at Palawan Beach on Sentosa had plenty of space to themselves, with the roll-out of an online booking system for visits during weekends and public holidays. But the lower turnout at Sentosa's three beaches affected the takings of beachfront F&B outlets and attractions.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
At Palawan Beach yesterday, guests were issued wristbands for admission after they presented their confirmation e-mail for verification. Beachgoers yesterday at Palawan Beach on Sentosa had plenty of space to themselves, with the roll-out of an onlin
At Palawan Beach yesterday, guests were issued wristbands for admission after they presented their confirmation e-mail for verification. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The beaches of Sentosa were significantly less crowded than usual yesterday, the first day beachgoers were required to pre-book slots for weekends and public holidays.

Groups of not more than five people were spread out across Tanjong, Palawan and Siloso beaches, with ample distance between each group, likely due to no-shows from some reservation holders.

Visitors who turned up without online bookings were either turned away or given a later available time slot, with waiting time varying from five minutes to almost two hours across the different entry checkpoints.

Civil servant Ang Wei Le, 28, and her friend, who turned up at Palawan Beach around 2.30pm without a booking, were given the next available slot at 4pm.

Speaking to The Sunday Times as they were passing time at a nearby bench with their takeaway food laid out on it, Ms Ang said: "We didn't realise the booking system started today, so it's a bit sian (Hokkien for annoying) that we have to wait for our slot, but it's better than making a wasted trip.

"We were planning to have our meal on the beach but we're starving, so we decided to eat here."

Over at Tanjong Beach, Mr Zac Wong and his wife had to wait only five minutes to enter the beach, even though they did not make a prior booking.

The newlywed couple were on a staycation at a nearby hotel.

"We're quite lucky that there was a slot for us on the spot, but even if there wasn't one, we would have been okay because we will just go back to the hotel.

"We do feel safer with this measure and will come back again next time," said the 29-year-old, who works in the tech industry.

Other safe management measures that were in place at the beaches included "safety rings" which demarcate spots where groups of up to five may gather.

Safe distancing ambassadors were seen patrolling the beaches and at the nearby food and beverage outlets.

Most of the 15 beach courts across the three beaches - Tanjong, Palawan and Siloso - which require pre-bookings were occupied.

Beachfront F&B outlets and attractions, which were not subjected to the online booking requirement, appeared to be quieter than usual.

Ms Novem Tz, 33, a barista at Baristart Coffee along Siloso Beach, said yesterday's footfall had fallen by half compared with the previous week.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the manager of Ola Beach Club, who said the weekend was shaping up to be one of the quietest since the beach club reopened in phase two.

The manager, who declined to be named, is hopeful that business will pick up as beachgoers who do not make an advance online booking may decide to patronise Ola Beach Club instead.

"Ola is directly on the beach too, so people who cannot go onto the main beach can come here," he said.

Slots for online booking are subject to capacity limits. Bookings can be made at this website.

Guests may choose from two time slots: morning (8am to 1pm), or afternoon (2 to 7pm), for up to five people per booking.

On the day of the visit, guests should approach the beach entry kiosk of their selected zone and present their confirmation e-mail for verification.

They will then be issued wristbands for admission and may access the selected beach zone at any point during the reserved time slot.

Last month, Sentosa Development Corporation said it would trial the booking system for an initial period of three months for the three beaches.

The three beaches have been segmented into a total of seven zones, each with a capacity limit ranging between 100 and 350 to allow for safe distancing.

The zones also have specific entry and exit points, where visitors are required to check in and check out using the SafeEntry digital system.

Cabin crew member Melvin Ho, 38, and his family of four, including two children, said while the booking system is "definitely more troublesome", he feels that it is much more "efficient and safer".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2020, with the headline 'Crowds thinner than usual'. Print Edition | Subscribe