THE EDITOR: As my dear departed grandfather used to say, “With every adversity comes opportunity.” Faithful to his word, I would like to believe that even in the apparent misery and adversity of another dreadful year without Carnival, there lies an opportunity to perhaps craft something bigger and better for ourselves.
I cast my mind back to that first Carnival as a 16-year-old reveller – as an active participant – when in the dwindling light of a February afternoon I was overcome with an epiphany: “This is so wonderful, why not do this twice a year!' And so it begins.
In late 2020, when it became increasingly apparent there would not be a Carnival in 2021, I had begun to reach out to stakeholders, spreading the gospel of a second Carnival – la petite Carnival – to be held in either July or August of 2021– and then based on its success every year thereafter.
The bare bones are already there was the crux of my argument. Most of the bands held launch parties in July and August to showcase their offerings for the coming year. But what if we scheduled the best of these for a single week, at a single venue, and then aggressively promoted this to the diaspora populations in New York, Miami, Toronto and London?
This would provide us with a week-long celebration – a focus – to which we could add other events (concerts, calypso contests, day fetes, steelband competitions, etc), and turn into a big, juicy second bite of the Carnival cherry. Stretch it out over two weekends and we may even be able to include a street procession of steelbands, a Carnival village at the Queen's Park Savannah and an early morning J'Ouvert.
Think about it. A week mirroring in many respects that ten-day stretch from the Monday before Carnival to Ash Wednesday – from Machel Monday to Mayaro cooldown. The juiciest and most financially lucrative parts of the multi -million-dollar Carnival industry duplicated in July.
Surely, this is what diversification in the tourism and cultural sectors would most closely resemble? Taking that which we already acknowledge as a success – in terms of tourist arrivals and revenue generation – and repeating it at another time of the year.
Historically, our entertainment and hospitality sectors experience a lift during the months of July and August, as returning university students seek out activities. It would make perfect sense for them to encourage their foreign-based schoolmates who otherwise may not be able to visit in February to come and experience what TT has to offer first-hand. Alongside the eager diaspora market, and a world that is increasingly willing to embrace destination/experience tourism, one can expect the flights arriving at Piarco to be packed.
And then of course there is the economic argument in support of a petite Carnival. If we were to encourage, for example, just 10,000 tourist arrivals, and assuming that each one of them spends on average US$150 for each of the seven to ten days they stay here, we would be able to generate over $100 million in economic activity. And that is not even taking into account the positive impact that the festival would have on hotel room occupancy rates during that period.
Ultimately, what this spells is an opportunity that – time and pandemic permitting – can be of handsome benefit to many of the stakeholders in the tourism and cultural sectors. Opportunity is knocking. Will somebody please open the door?