123 total votes.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE postponement of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival has “blindsided” key stakeholders, with one travel company yesterday expressing disappointment and fear over potential damage to the event’s brand, as well as financial losses upwards of $25,000 as a result of the date change.
The Nassau leg of the event will now be held from May 18-20, a well-placed source confirmed, two weeks after the heavily publicised initial date of May 4-6.
Last week, the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) announced the line-up of entertainers for the third annual event and made no mention of a planned delay in the controversial festival. However, Prime Minister Perry Christie confirmed yesterday that the date has been suspended in consideration of the upcoming general election.
The BNFC did not release an official statement on the postponement up to press time. However, flyers with the new date were circulating on social media last night.
Stephan Rolle, owner of Bluemonkey Bahamas, told reporters that any date change would negatively impact his business, Bahamas Carnival Cruise, which has booked more than 100 carnival-goers on an all-inclusive weekend cruise from Miami to Nassau.
He challenged Mr Christie to give the festival the same level of respect as the annual Junkanoo parades. He predicted the confusion would “put the nail in the coffin” for the controversial event and damage its international reputation.
“(Travellers) they would have invested to come to Nassau for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival,” he said, “so it’s not only disappointing, it’s scary at this point. You can imagine you telling Junkanooers that you’re going to postpone a month before? Give it that level of respect. If the Prime Minister said the whole idea behind Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival was to create entrepreneurs, I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve invested my own personal money into something and then you’re going to postpone it?”
Mr Rolle said: “The Prime Minister has to be a little bit more respectful of the development of the economy and people he wants to assist. To postpone at this point, I don’t know what tomorrow is going to hold for me. When my travellers get wind of this it’s going to be very scary. We’re going to have to find some way to compensate them. I have a group traveling from Spain: they’ve purchased tickets already.”
“To purchase airline tickets from Spain to Nassau for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival for an event that was promoted from January 2015,” he said.
“The Minister of Tourism and the Festival Commission (have) been promoting that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival will happen May 6, 2017. To tell people now a month before that we’re going to postpone it, at this point I’ll have to consult attorneys and figure out what’s our next step.”
Mr Rolle underscored that while his company has the support of the BNFC, and the Ministry of Tourism, the organisation has always been privately funded.
He estimated more than $25,000 in losses for his company from marketing costs to securing the cruise vessel. As for his travellers, he projected their collective losses would exceed $150,000.
“At this point, it’s extremely disappointing,” Mr Rolle said. “If you would have done any travelling before you would understand that once you have confirmed reservations, once you’ve paid for bookings, for hotels, flights, once you don’t make your flight, make your cruise, make your hotel, you pretty much lose what you would have invested in it.
“And for us, I have more than 150 people coming for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival alone from our own promotions. That would be a blow for our company and I think the reputation of not just the Bahamas but Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival.”
Mr Rolle continued: “I think this would put the nail in the coffin for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival ever being anything meaningful ever again in the Bahamas. At this point it’s done, there’s been too much back and forth, too much talk.
“We personally have international journalists and media houses coming down for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival. When you have other carnivals in the region happening at the same time or a week or two before or after, no one is going to take Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival serious anymore.”
An election date has not been set; however, the Office of the Prime Minister in a press statement on Sunday, announced that Parliament will be dissolved on April 11.
Observers expect the election to be held in early May.
Last night, The Tribune reached out to Bahamas Carnival Band Owners Association (BCBOA) President Dario Tirelli for comment on the matter; however, Mr Tirelli declined to speak until an official government statement was released.
However, Mr Tirelli told The Tribune that the news had “blindsided” his association.