Welcome to Soca Land!
SEARCHLIGHT warmly welcomes all those who have journeyed to our shores to enjoy our carnival and extends very best wishes for the season. We urge them to have a rounded experience, to find time not just for the fetes and parties, but to literally soak up all we have to offer, from landscape to seascape, to savour our wonderful cuisine and support our local industries.
The June to August period, once considered the “dead” season in traditional tourism terms, based on the concept that tourists only come from the north during their winter season, is now a bustling one in the eastern Caribbean. In addition to our own “hottest” Carnival, there is competition for the tourist dollar/pound/euro from carnivals in St Lucia, Antigua, Barbados and Grenada. Each country must put its best foot forward.
Clearly, carnival has tremendous potential for generating significant economic activity right across the board. How we utilize that potential and how the benefits are distributed are important issues for the society as a whole. It is not just the nature of the Festival that has been changing, but that has brought in its train changes in the main beneficiaries of the economic activity generated. These are trends which must not only be noted but prudently managed so as to ensure a more even distribution of the benefits.
In all of this, one has to constantly reassess the role of the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) itself. More and more hard-pressed to provide services and heavily dependent on State contributions, it has found itself trying hard to evolve to survive in the face of competition from private promoters. What should be its role? Should it be only a facilitator, as for instance is the Argyle International Airport in contributing to the success of the Festival without directly experiencing commensurate returns?
These are important issues to be discussed not only at governmental level but in the wider society as a whole. It is in the nature of the economic system we have for benefits of any economic activity to be distributed unevenly. This can, and does cause social tensions and conflicts and is an issue which demands continuing attention.
The CDC itself is forever head-scratching in its search for revenue. Gate-receipts are now out of the question given the level of attendance at shows and the competition from private shows. Yet its role in the Festival is crucial to its success. Where does all this leave the CDC, the components of Carnival and the continued development of Carnival?
All these are issues for our usual Carnival post-mortem. It calls for a careful balancing of interests, a willingness to give and take, and above all, to use the timeworn cliché, to “think outside the box”. Are we willing to engage in such a dispassionate manner?
In the meantime, welcome to Soca Land, and we wish everyone an enjoyable and incident-free Carnival.