Get set for a quieter Christmas light-up in Orchard this year

No street festivities amid pandemic but more lights and a new virtual tour among highlights

An artist's impression of the Christmas lights to be put up at the junction of Orchard Road and Cairnhill Road. Organisers are promising a dazzling spectacle when the light-up in the shopping belt kicks off on Nov 13. For the first time, viewers at h
An artist's impression of the Christmas lights to be put up at the junction of Orchard Road and Cairnhill Road. Organisers are promising a dazzling spectacle when the light-up in the shopping belt kicks off on Nov 13. For the first time, viewers at home will be able to experience "driving" along the 2.9km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura in a virtual tour.PHOTO: ORCHARD ROAD BUSINESS ASSOCIATION

The Christmas light-up in Orchard Road will be a scaled-down affair this year, with the usual street festivities called off owing to the ongoing pandemic.

But organisers are still promising a dazzling spectacle when it kicks off on Nov 13, with a wintry display of snowflakes, mistletoe and hollies to set the shopping street aglow.

This year's light-up will feature nearly 50km of LED string lights, up from 6km last year. The number was cut last year as the focus shifted to the pedestrian experience, with more lights on trees and lamp-post decorations.

With the scaling back of street activities this year, the LED string lights will be restored to levels similar to earlier years, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) told The Straits Times yesterday.

For the first time, viewers at home will be able to experience "driving" along the 2.9km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura in a virtual tour featuring 360-degree views.

The 14m main arch at the junction of Orchard Road and Paterson Road will be adorned with a blue ribbon and glittering reindeer, while lamp-post decorations will feature Christmas trees and white and gold baubles until Jan 1.

The Great Christmas Village fair that typically accompanies the light-up with food, amusement rides, games and performances will not be returning this year, however.

Orba said in a statement that the decision was made to minimise the risk of crowds gathering and to safeguard public health and safety.

In dedicating this year's light-up to front-line workers, the association will be working with initiatives such as Lions of Healthcare to reward healthcare staff, security guards, delivery staff and others with promotions for shopping, dining and services. More information will be made available on the Christmas on A Great Street microsite next month, it said.

Visitors to the microsite can also nominate front-line heroes by sharing their inspiring stories of resilience, and get a chance to win prizes for themselves as well as their heroes.

On how the budget for this year's light-up compares with that in previous years, Orba declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements. Orba chairman Mark Shaw said the event aims to lift spirits amid a challenging year and lack of year-end travel for locals.

 
 

Meanwhile, despite a lack of tourists, who typically make up about half of all visitors to Orchard Road, footfall has been improving steadily since shops were allowed to reopen in June, he said. "The numbers are looking very encouraging... and (food and beverage) establishments seem to be making quite a strong comeback. We want to get people back into the retail shops."

There are plans for a Black Friday sale event to draw shoppers, with details to be announced later.

While the lack of street activities may put a damper on the Christmas festivities, "we expect people will still come to look at the lights, because that's usually the main attraction anyway", Mr Shaw added.

Covid-19 has made plans to rejuvenate Orchard Road more urgent, he said, as more pedestrian-friendly features and outdoor activities will give the street a boost.

In the meantime, malls and retailers are retooling and rethinking the way they do business owing to the new reality and long road to recovery ahead, Mr Shaw noted. "I think the future of Orchard Road is secure, particularly if we go ahead and do this rejuvenation properly."

Mr Amos Tan, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business, believes the Christmas light-up is likely to draw more locals than in previous years even without the street fair. "With the limitation of not being able to travel, many will go to Orchard Road to soak in the festive mood," he said.

This presents an opportunity for retailers to grow their base of customers, which should take priority over short-term profits, he added.

Mrs Ann Ho, 42, an administrative assistant, said that while she typically avoids Orchard Road during the holiday season because of the large crowds, she may make an exception this year. "Since we cannot go overseas for holiday, we might as well take the children out to see the Christmas lights," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2020, with the headline 'Get set for a quieter Christmas light-up in Orchard this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe