By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe said now that the seeds have been planted for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival to grow and become a premier cultural festival, the opening of Baha Mar and other hotels are critical if they expect to have more visitors come for the event.
There needs to be more room inventory in New Providence and Grand Bahama, he said during a recent interview. And while the inaugural event did not attract as much additional visitors as expected, Mr Wilchcombe said he was very pleased that more people from outside of the Bahamas, such as the diaspora, came for carnival.
“It is critical that we have more inventory because even if we had the visitors coming, the problem is that we will not have hotel rooms; we have to get Baha Mar and other hotels in New Providence open.”
There have been several opening delays for the $3.5bn Baha Mar Resort, which was initially scheduled to open last December. A forecasted opening in early May was not met.
Meanwhile, Mr Wilchcombe said the Ministry of Tourism will be doing a lot more marketing for next year’s festival.
“We had lots (of visitors) from Atlanta, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and other parts of the diaspora,” he said.
“The critical thing is that we did not have Junkanoo Carnival before. Well, it happened and the first step has been made now knowing you planted the seed and it is going to grow; and that is what we did, we planted the seed. I think the success of it will cause it to grow quickly,” he said.
The government budgeted $9m to launch the event, and Bahamians turned out in large numbers in Freeport on April 16-17 and in Nassau on May 7-9. The event featured the Music Masters Competition, an All-star Bahamian concert, the Road Fever parade and a Junkanoo rush out.
With carnival now established, Minister Wilchcombe said the ministry is assessing the marketing strategy and online promotion.
“We are doing inventory now and we recognised that on Google, and the Internet we had more than 17 million preliminary number unique expressions, whether on Google and Facebook, etc,” he said.