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15 complaints filed with CASE over failed Sentosa sky lantern festival

15 complaints filed with CASE over failed Sentosa sky lantern festival

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As of 29 February 2024, CASE has received 15 consumer complaints against organiser Asian Couture and Boutique regarding the Sky Lantern Festival at Palawan Beach which fell through at the last minute, angering attendees, according to Melvin Yong, CASE President.

In general, consumers complained that the segment involving the release of sky lanterns was marketed as the highlight of the event and this was cancelled without prior notice, said Yong, adding that CASE is engaging Asian Couture and Boutique to seek full refund for affected consumers.

Don't miss: No refunds, says Sentosa sky lantern festival organiser

Additionally, the organisers said this week that it would be rescheduling the event to "around [the] first week of April]" and that no refunds would be given, according to Shiermie Bautista, the owner and founder of Asian Couture and Boutique.

"Please note ticket sales are final, and non-refundable," she said. "Tickets are valid for entry at the time of reschedule event around [the] first week of April.”

She added that for those who can’t attend the next event, they can re-sell their tickets at TicketSwap.

However, a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesperson told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it has not given it any further information on the date or venue for the event. 

"As SCDF is still following up with the [organiser]s on the details and the implementation of the fire safety guidelines, we have not given any clearance for the rescheduled event," it said, adding that event organisers who wish to use sky lanterns must adhere to fire safety guidelines which are listed on SCDF’s website.

Among others, lighted sky lanterns must be tethered at all times, and safety marshals must be on-site to supervise the event and in particular, prevent lighted lanterns from being released if they are not tethered. The safety marshals must also be equipped with fire extinguishers.

In an updated Facebook post, Bautista shared screengrabs from conversation she had with the Airspace Policy Division as well as Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC)

May be a graphic of text

In the messages, it states that based on the date, time and location, no permit would be required subject to the condition that only 20 lanterns are hoisted up at any one time and that the lanterns are securely tired to the ground. 

May be a graphic of 1 person and text that says 'Noelle- Sentosa Development Corporation 2 January 2024 Hi Shiermie. I've gotten approval from my management. We may proceed with the event on 21 Feb. Let me know when is a good time for us to meet to discuss further:) 11:25'

Bautista later shared a video of the test release that was conducted on 19 February at Palawan Green with RSAF, CAAS & SDC.

"One of our food and beverage vendors, Joleen...then joined to light her lantern. She was holding it wrongly, like a balloon, [and] she intentionally [dropped] it in the grass and burned [it]," said Bautista.

She explained that after that incident, Sentosa's security said they cannot proceed. SCDF then said they could not use open fire and to use LED lights instead. "I told them I cannot change the guidelines one day before the event because most of our attendees have already booked their flights and hotels and traveled from [other countries] just to attend the Sky Lantern Festival," said Bautista.

She added that on the day of the event, SCDF then allowed them to use the sky lanterns with candles when they came down for site inspections. However, there were an inadequate supply of extinguishers which is why they decided to reschedule the segment to another day while letting other egemnts such as the music festival continue. 

Bautista added that 2500 people collected their lanterns that day.

What exactly happened

The Sky Lantern Festival was meant to feature floating lanterns lit by candles that would be floated into the sky for a few minutes and then brought down as well as a music festival with food vendors. 

When MARKETING-INTERACTIVE reached out to SDC, a spokesperson said that Asian Couture & Boutique did not get clearance to meet the safety requirements mandated by local authorities such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

The spokesperson from SDC also said that after knowledge of the delays, guests were informed of the situation through signboards at key locations from Sentosa Express Beach Station to the site at Palawan Green. Live updates were provided by the organiser at event ground, they added.

More than 2000 people were affected with tickets for the festival priced at up to S$53.47 each on ticketing website Eventbrite. Eventgoers then took to social media to share pictures and videos of the event while noting that they were not properly informed, had to wait in long queues and that they were allegedly not welcome to a refund if they chose to pick up a lantern, pen and LED light which was provided by the organisers as reimbursement.

While it was disappointing that the star of the show, the lantern release, could not go as planned, the event's troubles began far before it reached that point. Attendees were told that there would be a music festival with performances and food from 3pm that day.

However, when attendees showed up, they reportedly found that the venue was still fenced up and that the set up was not done. Reportedly, the gates were only open to attendees at around 6.10pm.

It was also reported that there were police officers speaking to vendors and that some were taking down their stalls.

When gates opened, vendors were reportedly not selling their wares. The music festival also turned out to be just one violinist and one DJ playing.

When things started to go wrong and Asian Couture & Boutique realised that they would not be getting the necessary approvals to release the lanterns into the sky, signs were put up saying that due to "unforeseen circumstances", the festival would be "delayed".

Attendees reported that no updates were shared by email or other platforms and that many were still making their way into the venue despite the fact that the lanterns would not be able to be floated. Ushers were also reportedly telling attendees that the event would still be happening but that the lanterns would not fly. 

Following the announcement that the lanterns would not be able to be floated, a man representing the vendors reportedly told attendees over the sound system that they could apply for a refund. 

Attendees were also told that they could collect lanterns and LED lights which led to a single, snaking queue of attendees waiting for a very long time to collect the materials. 

Reportedly, collecting lanterns would affect one's eligibility for a refund. However, this information was not made clear to patrons. 

Asian Couture & Boutique had since reached out to SDC on their interest to hold another similar event, it told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE. "We reiterated to them on the need to apply for all necessary licenses/ permits and abide by all requirements from the authorities before engaging us on possible venue," it said. 

Apart from being the venue provider, SDC has also been advising every event organiser on the various agency regulatory processes, which includes the regulatory requirements that each organiser must adhered to. The event organiser must show proof of these approvals before the event is allowed to take place. Due to the unique complexities for each event, the event organiser must plan in the lead time required for license or permit applications and approvals, it said. 

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Related articles:
3 lessons brands can learn from Sentosa's sky lantern fiasco
Sentosa's brand sentiments plummet after sky lantern festival flops
Number of complaints drops after Tatler announced to offer partial refund

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