THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris has criticised the Division of Tourism's planning of the inaugural Tobago Carnival, scheduled for October 28-30.
Morris slammed the division's ten-day promotional trip to Grenada, led by the assistant secretary, arguing that countries with direct access to Tobago should have been preferred. He said the marketing strategy for the Tobago Carnival is confusing.
In an interview with Newsday on Monday, Morris said he is Tobagonian first, and, like other stakeholders, wants to ensure the carnival is a tremendous success.
But Morris said he shared the concerns of Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore over the lack of information, “incoherent planning and haphazard strategic direction of the carnival planning committee with only two months remaining.”
Morris said he is confused by the promotional trip to Grenada, while stakeholders in Tobago are unaware of the calendar of events and the format of the carnival.
“It therefore begs the question: what are they marketing and to whom are they promoting (it) while in Grenada?
"Even more appalling is the isolation of our counterparts in Trinidad, where there is a market of 1.3 million Carnival-loving population and a well-organised international brand identity of mas bands, soca artistes and steel orchestras, whose following spreads far and wide across the globe.”
He said it is therefore “foolhardy” that the generous offer of support and assistance from the National Carnival Commission (NCC) is being ignored. He said the organising committee should “work with the major stakeholders both in Tobago and Trinidad, to showcase the best of Tobago to the world using the three elements of mas, pan and calypso to highlight Tobago's rich heritage and unique cultural expressions, ensuring that the carnival provides patrons that goes beyond the fetes and provides something truly extraordinary.”
Last week, a ten-member contingent led by Assistant Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Meghan Morrison went to Grenada. Morris claimed the trip cost taxpayers $291,094.
He said the promotion of the carnival is necessary, but this trip was “misplaced and ill-advised.”
Instead, he argues, promotion in places with direct routes to Tobago should have ideally started after the committee launched the carnival and announced the schedule, followed by "aggressive" promotion and marketing. This campaign should have taken place in "major source markets such as the United Kingdom, New York, where there is a direct flight out of JFK, and regionally in Barbados, where there is also a direct flight out of Sir Grantley Adams International Airport.”
Last week, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said preliminary discussions had been held about a ferry service to Grenada.
Morris also raised concerns about a letter allegedly written by the Spicemas Corporation of Grenada to a Division of Tourism official proposing a “Carnival exchange,” inviting Tobago Carnival Committee members to Spicemas and offering Tobago artistes guest appearances at Grenada events.
He said in terms of exposure, he would have liked to see, rather than a few artistes on a trip, support for the production of music for all artistes to help them reach global audiences.
He said nevertheless, he has no doubt that the carnival in October will be well attended, because there is a natural appetite and demand as a result of the two-year covid19 lockdown, but: "I am quite anxious as to whether this administration has what it takes to produce an experience that will be sustainable and viable for years to come."
Contacted on Monday for a response, Secretary of the Division Tashia Burris said: “No comment at all. When the Assistant Secretary returns, she will answer any questions regarding this trip.”
Tourism and Culture Minister Randall Mitchell, who was in Tobago on Monday morning, also declined comment.
Calls and messages to Augustine went unanswered.