By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
OFFICIALS expect to raise less money to host next year’s first Bahamian carnival than they had hoped, with Bahamas National Festival Commission chairman Paul Major saying yesterday that without sufficient private sector sponsorship, the government will have to put up the lion’s share of the investment in the festival.
However, he hastily added that regardless of the amount of tax payer’s money put into the project, the carnival’s GDP impact would make the investment worthwhile.
He was speaking to members of the Rotary Club of South-East Nassau at East Villa during the first public presentation on his commission’s strategy for hosting the carnival.
The commission estimates it would need about $9.5m to host next year’s carnival, scheduled for May 7-9.
Local wholesalers and retailers, supermarkets, beverage companies, hotels and tour operators will be targeted by the commission in the hope of raising about $1m from local businesses while such major global brands as Samsung, Jet Blue and Microsoft will be targeted in the hope of raising about $5m from international companies.
Despite this, Mr Major said the target of $5-$7m from sponsorships is unlikely to be realised in the festival’s first year.
“We’re seeking to raise somewhere around $7m for the carnival and I hasten to add I don’t think that’s going to happen…being a realist,” he said.
“We’ve already started talking to some prospective sponsors and sponsors are a little queasy about putting up money before they see history. And for those of you that have had the privilege of trying to beg money, you would’ve heard this. Now we would’ve thought that because the Bahamas is a known entity, people would’ve been lining up to donate money. Well, it’s not the case, so it’s going to cost us about $9.5m to put this thing on. If we’re lucky, we’d have a $2-$3m deficit. If we’re not lucky we’d have a $9m deficit.”
He added: “Again, there’s a multiplier effect of somewhere between 4 per cent and 5 per cent of every dollar spent in the economy that gets contributed to the goods and services of the country, so we’re talking about a $27m GDP impact of increased economic impact throughout the country even if we don’t get $1 in revenue and that is what you call an economic stimulus.”
Carnivals are among the largest income generating festivals in the world. Mr Major said the festival will be hosted here purely as an economic stimulus to advance Bahamian culture “beyond a spectator sport.”
He said: “We could quibble all we want about Junkanoo and Goombay and Joombay and whatever else; bottom line is carnivals generate the most money of festivals, bar none. Carnival has contributed significantly to increased tourism and economic growth in over 100 cities worldwide.”
The government’s decision to host the festival here has attracted harsh criticism from some who lament that such investment has not been made in Junkanoo, the country’s most celebrated cultural expression.
Mr Major, whose statements yesterday often came from a consideration of this criticism, said the idea of hosting a Carnival was encouraged by such iconic Junkanoo figures as the late Winston “Gus” Cooper, former leader of the Valley Boys Junkanoo group, and Percy Francis, leader of the Shell Saxons Superstars.
“This was born out of the Junkanoo community,” he said, adding that he has the full support of the Junkanoo Corporation New Providence (JCNP), which is responsible for the administration and operation of the annual Boxing Day and New Year’s Day parades. “The icons of Junkanoo are who spawned this idea. This is a figment that this is something anyone outside the Junkanoo community wants.”
Unlike the famed Trinidad Carnival, which Mr Major said appeals mainly to people across the Caribbean diaspora, the Bahamian Carnival seeks to primarily to attract locals and people from North America.
The festival would take place after Lent, helping it to avoid competition in the festival market, he said.
“Hotel properties and cruise operators will be key partners to augment the reach to visitors by promoting the event as a value added component to their existing audiences,” Mr Major said.
As for the participation of locals in the event, Mr Major said: “Carnival allows people who wouldn’t commit themselves to experiencing the rigours involved with being a part of a Junkanoo group a chance to participate in a festival. All you have to do is buy your costume. We’d have recorded music and live music. All you have to do is jump up and down and have fun from the sports centre to the carnival village, parade down and revel as much as you want.”