Tobago gets set to host inaugural carnival
TOBAGO is set to create history this week, hosting its first-ever Carnival, titled Ritual, Revelry, Release, from October 28-30.
And as the journey to the long-awaited event enters its final leg, hundreds of visitors are expected on the island to participate in the festivities.
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James estimates that the occupancy rate in the accommodation sector is about 95 per cent among its membership. But she expects to get a clearer picture by Tuesday.
Birchwood-James said two weeks ago four of the big hotels, two guesthouses and one villa were not fully booked.
“But I would say at this point we are about 95 per cent of our members. Occupancy is high,” she told Sunday Newsday.
Birchwood-James said she learnt that boat and airline tickets are going fast.
The THA and other stakeholders had been clamouring for more flights to Tobago for the carnival.
At the THA’s Mandate Monday forum, Secretary of Culture, Tourism, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris said Caribbean Airlines has provided an additional 19, 144 seats for the carnival.
CAL introduced two new direct flights from Miami and Barbados to Tobago for the carnival. There will also be two additional flights on the New York-Tobago route on October 23 and 26.
Birchwood-James said while she is pleased with the occupancy rates so far, she is hoping it reaches 100 per cent.
“We need that money to clear some of those outstanding bills (accrued during covid19).”
She said the island’s tourism sector welcomes the Tobago carnival.
“We look at it as a positive event that can continue to take place in Tobago.”
Birchwood-James said as far as she knows, the association’s members have not jacked up their prices.
“We have packages to suit everyone.”
She added some of their members are already enjoying the benefits of the carnival as some of the fetes and other events are being held on their premises. Musicians and promoters are also staying at some of the hotels.
The THA executive council approved $17.5 million for the carnival.
But Burris said on Monday, they are hoping to spend less because a number of sponsors had come on board to support the carnival in its first year.
“Our spend is really targeted to marketing and ensuring this is the safest carnival.”
The week is jam-packed with a mixture of private and THA-sponsored events. It begins on Sunday with Island Vibez’ Soca Jam at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, from 3 am to 10 am.
Later today, TUCO hosts its Calypso Monarch competition at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex from 6 pm.
Tomorrow, there will be a tribute to veteran calypsonian Lord Nelson (Robert Nelson) at the Plymouth Recreation Ground. The event is being hosted by Tobago Music Arts and Culture (TOMAC).
The group will also host a mega-concert featuring Grammy award-winning Nigerian singer Burna Boy (Damani Ogulu) and a host of local artistes on Thursday at the same venue.
On October 28, Pan Trinbago takes centre stage with its presentation, Pan & Powder through the streets of Scarborough.
The action shifts to Crown Point on October 30 with J’Ouvert from 4 am-9am. This will be followed by the keenly-anticipated Mud Is Life festival from 9 am to 2 pm.
Then its off to Roxborough for Night Mas from 6 pm.
The parade of the bands takes place on Sunday in Scarborough..
Tobago Carnival Committee chairman Meisha Trim said the island has limitless potential.
“Tobago is blessed with an under-exposed capacity that the world could relish and the intent is to bring to light all the diamond in the rough prospects to add to the template of the world’s festival adventures,” she said at a news conference on Friday.
Saying it is time for Tobago to claim an identifiably unique stamp on its festival, Trim said the carnival must become a must-do experience for visitors.
She claimed all mas bands and the grants they have asked for are “engaged and paid.
“We have all systems on go with sponsors and we do look forward to welcoming everyone to our island.”
Trim added there is much happening behind the scenes in an effort to present the best possible showing.
The Tobago Business Chamber is hoping the carnival will breathe life and vibrancy into the island’s economy, especially to small and micro-entrepreneurs.
“This is a time when guest house owners, villa owners, car rental agencies, restaurants, bars, night clubs, tour guides, taxis, mini marts and sellers of arts and crafts and treats such as the iconic benne balls and sugar cake are all eagerly looking forward and hoping to get good sales over this carnival period,” chamber chairman Martin George said via WhatsApp.
George urged entrepreneurs to offer visitors excellent customer service and products of the highest quality.
“This is not to be seen as an opportunity for price-hiking or price-gouging as those practises will leave visitors with a bitter taste in their mouths as to the whole Tobago experience.”
Tobago police, meanwhile, have assured that the carnival will be a safe one.
At a news conference on Friday, ACP Glen Dillon said there will be an increased police presence for the festivities.
“We are going to see more police patrols, you are going to see more road checks, more DUI operations,” he said
Dillon added the existing strength of the Tobago Division is being augmented by police officers from Trinidad.
Dillon urged masqueraders and spectators to obey the directions of the police.
He said traffic restrictions will also be in effect, the details of which will be released before Friday.
BY: COREY CONNELLY