Singapore River light-up not making waves

Poll: Precinct gets more visitors but no big boost for some businesses

Some retailers say they hope to see more activities. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Some retailers say they hope to see more activities. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
(Above) A view of Clarke Quay during the Christmas by the River festival. (Below) Some retailers say they hope to see more activities. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

A rise in visitors to the Singapore River Precinct has not resulted in the major windfall that some businesses in the area were hoping for.

A survey by Singapore River One (SRO) - which manages Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and Robertson Quay - found that average numbers are up by a quarter to around 25,000 for the November/December period compared with six months earlier.

The increase in visitors was boosted by the launch of SRO's inaugural Christmas by the River lights festival on Nov 15.

However, the six week-long event, featuring Christmas market stalls and candy canes on lamp posts, has drawn mixed reactions from retailers.

"Most of our customers don't even notice the decorations," said Roel Quimba, 46, the general manager of Sque Rotisserie and Alehouse. The festival has made little difference to the restaurant, which sells European food. "We are not really affected," he added. "Our business is still the same."

It has also been business as usual at The Sailors Restaurant and Bar on Robertson Quay - where bar manager Adaldo Salvatore, 23, said there should be more activities at the festival. "All we see are some candy canes along the street," he said. "Maybe they can promote more events in the area so I can explain to my customers what's going on."

SRO executive director Tyrone Tabing said the festival aims "to add something special to make the Singapore River even more of a destination this holiday season".

It may have helped Toby's Estate, a cafe at Rodyk Street near Robertson Quay, which has reported more customers - especially guests staying in nearby hotels. Retail manager Rasul Rahim, 40, has seen a 12 per cent increase in customer traffic compared with the same period last year. "The light-up was a good call to give more business opportunities to us," he said. "Robertson Quay is typically quieter than areas like Boat Quay and Clarke Quay."

There was also a slight increase in the number of patrons at Brewerkz Restaurant, with more locals visiting to eat and drink. Its manager Benjamin Heng, 32, said: "Most of the activities take place nearer to Central Mall but during the later part of the day, from 8pm to 9pm, it seems like more customers are dropping by after seeing the lights."

Dr Lynda Wee, an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Business School's marketing and international business department, said some visitors may just pass by to soak in the ambience: "Shopping and eating may not be on their agenda so it's not surprising if they're not spending."

Singapore Polytechnic marketing and retail lecturer Amos Tan, 36, said: "People love the lights. For visitors who want to relax after a long day of work, the lights would definitely be a good draw factor."

SRO said it will look into raising awareness about next year's festival.

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