THA Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris has hinted at a smaller budget for the October Carnival 2023, compared to that of 2022.
Tobago’s second annual Carnival is scheduled from October 27-29 and will be centralised in the capital, Scarborough.
Speaking on the Tobago Updates morning show, Burris said the budget is yet to be finalised.
“It’s a tentative budget – tentative because we’re still having some conversations with some sponsors at this point in time. There are also maybe one or two elements that we still need to add or tweak, so we’re just awaiting some final figures for that.”
She said after final discussions with the executive council, a public announcement would be made.
"But it definitely would not be as much as last year.”
In 2022, the THA budgeted $17 million for the event.
Burris said the main reason for lower costs was the decision to focus on Scarborough.
“What we have found is that the majority of stakeholders are in favour of us centralising the carnival in Scarborough, because the bandleaders are just one section of that stakeholder grouping." She said other stakeholders agreed that the carnival, "which is a product created by the THA," should showcase the capital of Tobago.
She said this would assist with budgeting as the organisers would not have to build out infrastructure for activities in three places.
“It helps us to streamline the budget and reduce some of our spending ,because one of the things that people don’t recognise is that it's easy to tell the government we want J’Ouvert in Crown Point and we want this in Roxborough – but it's always at an additional cost, and it is when you announce that 'the thing costs this amount of money,' people have problems and objections.”
She said additionally, Scarborough presents the best option for the events planned.
“It’s easy access to Scarborough, there is parking in several places. You have many options to exit Scarborough as well.
"The challenge that we had in Crown Point and Roxborough last year is that when you have a situation where it is largely one main entrance into the space and one or two exits, when you have that volume of people going into that space, you have a traffic nightmare.
"We felt that Scarborough gave some of the best opportunities for us to maximise the resources that we have in the space. In addition to that, the feedback that we got from masqueraders who were on the route last year, they thoroughly enjoyed the route. They thoroughly enjoyed being able to party on the waterfront, cross on the stage on the sea, pass through the highway. They said that party of the chip going up to Bishop's was some of the best that they had, and they felt safe.”
She said it his year, the aim is to build on that.
“How do you measure success? For us, success is ensuring that we have a product that totally sells the idea of what Tobago is. What we’re trying to put on the stage – the ritual, the revelry, the release – there is space for the mud, there is place for our traditional characters, there is place for our contemporary mas bands. There is space for everybody to come on the streets and be a part of the revelry.”
She said there is also spectacle being created for the spectators.
“For every band that has 100 masqueraders, you have 1,000 people looking on.
"The carnival is not only for the people who is playing mas, but the carnival is for the people who are watching on. The carnival is for the people who is going to derive the economic benefits from the carnival.”
So, she said, this year's budget would be skewed towards marketing the destination.
“That is why our Tobago Tourism Agency is responsible for the marketing of the carnival. We see this investment as not just being event marketing, but rather destination marketing.”