By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
SEVERAL hotels have branded the inaugural Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival as a “positive component” of this country’s tourism product, according to Stuart Bowe, president of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association.
However, Mr Bowe said a number of hotels could not measure whether guests came to New Providence specifically to attend the three-day event or if they learned of Junkanoo Carnival during their stay and chose to attend during their trips.
In a statement responding to questions from The Tribune, the BHTA president said it will take time for the event to attract significant international exposure.
Following Junkanoo Carnival, which was held May 7 to 9, there has been wide debate on whether the event was a success.
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said last week that while he was very pleased that more people from outside of the Bahamas attended Junkanoo Carnival, the event did not attract as many additional visitors as was expected.
Mr Bowe said: “The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Associations’ member properties have reported that some of their guests did indeed attend Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival.
“While many hotels we have communicated with stated it was difficult to measure whether or not guests came to the island to attend carnival, or found out about it and subsequently chose to attend the celebration during their stay, a number of hotels said they believed Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival to be a positive component of the product offering.”
He added: “The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, in tandem with the Ministry of Tourism, supports a number of initiatives dedicated to developing and promoting Bahamian culture and heritage.
“Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, like any national event, will take time to develop and build the momentum necessary to garner significant exposure and participation on an international scale. We look forward to continuing to support this, and many other celebrations of Bahamian culture.”
In February, Paul Major, chairman of the Bahamas National Festival Commission, said the event would likely create a significant boost for Nassau/Paradise Island hotel occupancies.
The day the event launched in Nassau, Mr Major said he expected carnival to inject $50m to $60m into the local economy.
When contacted yesterday, Mr Wilchcombe said organisers now have to go back to the drawing board to work out the kinks that may have detracted from the carnival experience.
He added that the focus now needs to be on the incorporation of the country’s cultural identity and how it can be used to develop the event into a major tourist attraction.
“Success is predicated on how you continue and how you view what is taking place,” the West End and Bimini MP said. “The question now has to be how do we intend to incorporate our cultural ethos and how we intend to use it as a major tourist attraction?
“There are other kinks that need to be worked out in terms of how the vendors can be better positioned, because the reality is we want more Bahamians involved – that is the only way that our culture will be developed and very fast. So we have to do that because we have a major economic opportunity on our hands,” Mr Wilchcombe said.