The Carnival ‘do’
TOURISM CIRCLES IN TRINIDAD ARE ABUZZ with the news that an estimated 200 000-plus visitors are on that island for the Carnival season culminating this weekend.
For sure, hotels there are fully booked, which is proof that not only Trinidadians love a party.
Many Barbadians are also caught up in the Carnival “do” and, like expected Road March winner Kerwin Dubois, may fancy themselves as “bacchanalists”.
But what can we do to capture some attention for Barbados in a non-tourism-oriented country that is attracting visitor numbers which are more than half of our population?
Aside from the twin-island’s Tobago aspect where a healthy tourism sector makes that island almost self-sufficient, Trinidad’s visitors go either to play mas’ or talk business deals. So the average Trini would not fit easily into the character of an aproned worker striding across a hot beach to serve piña colada to some sleepy tourist in a Chaise Lounge chair.
But we can add to our sea-and-sand image by diversifying the very top foreign exchange-earning sector which countries like ours, Jamaica and the Bahamas execute so well. And an arguably good place to start would be to revisit the Follow Me To Crop-Over programme.
This was conceptualized under the former administration to draw Trinidadians and other revellers here by marketing Crop-Over and Barbados during Carnival. And while it did not promise revellers a replica of T&T Carnival, it would have reached thousands of potential visitors via sheer visibility and the offer of a unique summer event that is indeed “more than a carnival”.
If one could look beyond the politics, the programme could again be an additional and fresh – since governments in both countries have since changed – element to our tourism marketing strategy in times when it’s essential to try something different.
In fact, Trinidad itself has been talking about entertainment tourism recently as a way of diversifying its own fuel-dependent economy.
Fantastic Friday producer William Munro, a veteran in the music business, is gung-ho about the assistance given by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration to the tune of about TT$2 million, and with plans to market his International Soca Monarch show beyond the Caribbean, he is looking to build on those Carnival visitor numbers.
But, coincidentally, Munro’s show seems to have be ignored recently by local artistes, whose music once rocked the airwaves in Trin-bago and triggered the “Bajan invasion” of the late 1990s.
Maybe, while the artistes are getting few returns from Soca Monarch, Government can put some resources behind them and create a yearly Bajan face or two within the entertainment vision that is Fantastic Friday. Visibility among 200 000 people is nothing to scoff at.
What do we have to lose if we capitalize on a growing festival market next door, instead of continuing to spend a veritable fortune to be part of festivals in the traditional North America/United Kingdom markets?