As the beginning of 2016, I would like to dedicate my first post to my New Year's Eve experience here in London.
Coming from Taiwan, even though Taipei 101 has great fireworks every year, I cannot remember when was the last time that I actually stood in the crowds and watch the performance. Why would anyone want to dress nicely and stand in the cold while you have great view from your comfy living room? What's worse, you may not even guarantee a perfect view, depending on the wind flow, you might just see a bunch of smoke as if the building is burning on fire...
However, since 2015-16 is my first NYE in London– as "touristy" as it may seem, of course, I am going to see the fireworks display by River Thames! Here in London, the fireworks by River Thames is no doubt one of the main spotlights. Not only the locals, but even visitors from all over the world are coming to celebrate end of the year. Such significant event, definitely requires serious planning; especially after the tragic incident happened in Paris earlier, anywhere with large group of people requires extra attention and security. Since 2014, London's NYE Fireworks event became a ticketed event, due to the increased crowds in recent years. The concept is like going to a concert, which people may select the viewing area according to the direction they prefer. All areas are color-coded, but the prices are all the same (£10).
Having zero experiences, I had no idea what to expect. I assume it would be like scalping for concert tickets, tickets would vanish in seconds or internet would breakdown somehow. For fear that my first New Year's experience wouldn't be perfect (of course the fireworks isn't the only 'perfect' way to celebrate, it's just how I imagined it to be for my first year), I submitted to the Mayor of London newsletter in mid September to keep me updated for the ticket release date.
What Happened Next
In total, I received a total of 19 e-mails related to the event:
- 10 from Mayor of London
- 5 from TFL
- 4 from SEE Tickets (the partnered ticketing system)
- 14/09/15 Register for Updates
- 01/10/15 Tickets Release Reminder
- 02/10/15 Tickets Released
- 10/10/15 Tickets Order Confirmation
- 25/11/15 Important Information About London New Year's Eve with UNICEF
- 10/12/15 Confirmation of Despatch
- 17/12/15 Important Travel Information
- 22/12/15 Important Travel Reminder
Observations & Learnings
Overall, I was satisfied with the experience and to be honest, a bit surprised as well. Many people warned me how crowded it would be and how difficult it would be to get home. Instead, it was nothing like that at all. I had a wonderful night, and got home without any troubles. Below are 3 takeaways from my New Year's experience in London.
Value of Scarcity
A total of 100,000 tickets were released and all sold out. Through the ticketing method, not only does it control the amount of people in the area, but also ensure the quality of the experience. People who purchase the tickets are most likely to be there for the fireworks. Therefore, it indirectly filtered out people who just want to have a wasted party.
By having constant updates and reminders, it allows the visitors to be aware of the event status. Keeping in mind that the event actually happened in the pre-booking stage, lasting a period over 3 months period, which sometimes may be hard to keep track. Personally, I found it helpful between the "ticket order confirmation" to "despatch of the tickets". The more the people know, the less anxious they are. It can reduce unnecessary stress and also lessen the need of customer service to explain things repeatedly.
As an international-scale event, participants' profile may vary from local residents to foreign travelers. It is crucial to take all kinds of possible scenario into consideration, and foreseeing what kind of troubles they may go through. A sufficient list of FAQ, from ticket booking/delivering, transportation, to security, they have provided the visitors with sufficient information for the event. See more at: https://www.london.gov.uk/get-involved/london-new-years-eve/nye-frequently-asked-questions
From a non-local's perspective, if there's anything I would add to make the event even well-rounded, perhaps some visual cue to assist area selection during the booking process would be helpful. For me, even with the map, it was hard for me to picture how it would look like in real-life. I had to google a few blogs and see what others recommended and also switch between Google map to try to get a sense of the perspective in different zones. In addition, I would be interested in finding out the profile of ticket buyers, and how many tickets are sold to the locals and how many are for international travelers. Perhaps, that will also assist in future improvement of the event.
I can't say that I would go again for the fireworks, but it was definitely worth at least once in a life time. Feel free to leave a comment below to share your New Year's experiences. Happy new year and wish you a great year ahead!