The Carnival Hub
Posted: Saturday, November 13, 2010
By Derren Joseph
November 13, 2010
A couple weeks ago, the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Service Industries (TTCSI) hosted the official launch of a project called ICT Innovations for the masquerade sector in Trinidad and Tobago TT-M1021. In short, the project seeks to create a one stop carnival Web site, or carnival hub, to promote economic growth for micro, small and medium size businesses in the masquerade sector. An idea that is long overdue, the project goes beyond the web-based platform to help equip these enterprises with the skills and capacity to take their business forward.
The project is receiving over US$300,000 from the Inter American Development Bank’s (IDB’s) Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF). Apparently over 400 projects were submitted under the IDB’s ICT4BUS banner. From these, the proposal submitted by the TTCSI and the National Carnival Development Foundation (NCDF) was selected. It is the first project from Trinidad and Tobago to ever win funding under this MIF initiative. Most interested observers wonder how could this most practical of steps, take so long. Services which include the creative sector, account for more than 55 per cent of GDP or an average of TT$43 billion. Within this $43 billion is the carnival industry. An industry which Dr Keith Nurse estimates as yielding about $93.4 million from mas players, $500 million from fetes, as part of a total carnival economic contribution of $1.3 billion. For me, the highlight of the launch was the address given by Mahindra Satram-Maharaj, chairman of the NCDF and Director of the TTCSI. He reminded us that all is not well with our carnival. Some of us would even say that carnival may be in decline. Out of all the points Mahindra Satram-Maharaj made that evening, two in particular resonated with me.
A multi-billion marketplace
Firstly, T&T carnival and the many T&T influenced carnivals worldwide, represent a multi-billion US dollar marketplace and it is clear that we are not getting our fair share. Yes we may get 30,000 or 40,000 visitors at carnival time, but those numbers mean nothing to those carnival entrepreneurs struggling to take our national festival to the next level. Carnival entrepreneurs are anxious to stop being perceived as beggars waiting for hand outs from the state, but as managers of viable businesses who contribute to national prosperity. Secondly, during the launch, awards were given to veterans of the carnival art form—Michael Headly, Edmund Hart, Neville Aming, Frank Smith, Wilma Bedlow, Donald Little and Winston Daniel. To me this says that economic benefits can be a focus without forgetting our foundation. Now I understand why the NCDF has “Development” in its name.
Details of the project are available at the TTCSI Web site, along with an application form for those micro, small and medium size businesses in the masquerade sector, wishing to be a part of the first stage of this carnival hub. I have asked Florence Louis–Edouard from the TTCSI to keep me in the loop as this project progresses and I will revisit it in this column over the upcoming months once I am able. The NCDF estimates that there are approximately 450 micro, small and medium size businesses in the masquerade sector that can potentially benefit from this project. The deadline for applications is November 12, 2010.
The synergies with the tourism sector are clear and I was pleased to see Lorraine Pouchet, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Incoming Tour Operators Association in the audience. With a project of this magnitude, I expect that the key tourism stakeholders are brainstorming ways of taking advantage of the blessing of this carnival hub. Make no mistake, it will be a blessing to a tourism sector that has been praying hard within recent times. The Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association (THRTA) pointed out that for carnival 2010, Port-of-Spain’s room stock increased by 425 rooms—there were about 10,000 room nights available, compared to 7,574 room nights in 2009. To fill all these rooms, rates came down by 17.6 per cent in February 2010 but occupancy levels were still down 6.5 per cent on 2009 levels.
For hoteliers to cut rates and receive fewer guests at the busiest time of their calendar year was tough. But it was not just the hotels feeling the pinch, everyone has, so things need to change. Business as usual is not a serious option. Of course, we need to keep in mind that this carnival hub is a medium to long term project. The tourism industry first needs to survive 2011 and another weak carnival season would be unacceptable. My name is Derren Joseph and I love my country. As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful land. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in the future of our beloved country.
-- The project seeks to create a one stop carnival Web site, or carnival hub, to promote economic growth for micro, small and medium size businesses in the masquerade sector.
-- An idea that is long overdue, the project goes beyond the web-based platform to help equip these enterprises with the skills and capacity to take their business forward.
Send page by E-Mail