Masqueraders from Jade Monkey carnival band’s tustee section on the road during the parade of the bands on Sunday, along Milford Road, Scarborough, Tobago. – David Reid
TOBAGO Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James has described the island’s inaugural carnival as a resounding success.
Although the figures are still being tabulated, she said a preliminary report from the association’s members on Friday showed the accommodation sector had an 85 per cent occupancy rate.
That figure, she said, was expected to climb to about 90 per cent for the carnival weekend.
“Once people come and you have it safe and there are no big incidents, and you have hotels at 85 per cent and climbing, it must be a success. It is not a success if people ain’t come and bacchanal breaking out everywhere and is who chop who. That did not happen, so we are not even going to look at that,” she told Newsday.
Birchwood-James said on a scale of one to ten, she gave the carnival an eight.
“I have spoken to many people, locals and visitors, and observed certain things, as it is our first year. People came and had fun. It was safe and there were no incidents that we know of. So that is the eight out of ten.”
But Birchwood-James said there were shortcomings, which she has documented in a report to be presented to the association’s board, tourism and culture secretary Tashia Burris and the Tobago Festivals Commission.
For example, she said many people did not know there was goat-racing in Buccoo on Sunday.
“So that will be contained in the report.”
Birchwood said she is awaiting the THA’s evaluation of the event.
“But I found it to be a resounding success, and especially from my role as vice-president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, when we have an 85 per cent hotel occupancy and climbing over the weekend. That is success for us, because that is how we make our money.”
She thanked all the stakeholders for making the carnival a success.
Assistant Secretary in the Division of Culture, Tourism, Antiquities and Transportation Megan Morrison also felt the carnival was a highly successful.
“We had a huge visitor arrival, and we have seen where the Carnival can grossly improve our tourism product,” she told Newsday. “It has (generated) and will generate economic activity on the island and at the same time, give patrons an experience they would not forget. The carnival was a great success.”
However, Morrison said some aspects of the event must be revisited.
“As with everything else, nothing is perfect. There are some things we can look at going forward.”
For example, the organisers may have to look at the length of the parade routes in some cases and where certain events are held.
“J’Ouvert was in Crown Point . But we are not sure if that is going to remain next year, so its versatile.”
Morrison said they may also have to look at the closing time for the carnival, “because patrons are complaining that they did not get enough time on the streets.”
She said a post-mortem is expected to be carried out on the event to see what changes can be made.
“But this (October carnival) will be a staple on the calendar of events for Tobago.”
Tobago Business Chamber chairman Martin George said the carnival was “a wonderful start.”
He said, “It was not perfect, we had our little hiccups – small, little issues. But overall, it was a fantastic effort and it was a wonderful celebration.”
He said the chamber looks forward to partnering with the THA next year “to make this bigger, better and brighter, and to stamp Tobago’s carnival in October firmly on the international calendar of carnivals as one not to be missed.”