MAJOR stakeholders on island are seeking to enhance the economic viability of the Saint Lucian Carnival product, while also looking for more youth involvement and development in the annual festivities.
Speaking at a media launch, on Thursday, Minister of Tourism and Creative Industries Dr. Ernest Hilaire advocated for the continuous growth of this cultural artform and the festival, generally.
He noted that there needs to be a “right balance” between development and economic sustainability for the artform to flourish.
Dr Hilaire underlined the importance of the developmental aspect of the festivities, which inculcates the growth and sustainability of the artform. The minister recalled that several events were returned to the carnival programme, including the junior carnival and junior calypso, and plans are afoot to include the junior panorama and other activities in next year’s festivities.
“The big challenge for us in 2024 is how do we get the right balance between development and giving support to elements of carnival that actually bring the returns that can make us grow the carnival,” declared Dr. Hilaire.
Noting the cost factors of putting on the festival, he said, the economic spinoffs must filter down to the various entities that sustain the artform.
“Carnival is the largest single economic activity in the country …and in the first ten days of July, this year, we had 18,000 arrivals,” stated Hilaire.
He asserted that “it is a tremendous statement about the importance of carnival in terms of attracting people to come to the country, you have to reward that …and if there are elements that are bringing in economic returns, you have to support it and ensure that it is sustained.”
Nonetheless, said the minister, “the cultural importance of Carnival must also be sustained…so we need to find the right balance between making sure that the artform continues to survive and therefore, feeding the elements that produce it but at the same time, providing support for these elements that bring in the resources that can make the carnival a success”.
Added Hilaire: “So, the challenge for the communities and the different agencies for next year is to see how we can revise, rethink and reorient to ensure sustainability, both in terms of the artform but also in terms of the economic success of carnival.”
While reviewing the status of last year’s festivities, Tamara Gibson, chairperson of the Carnival Planning Management Committee [CPMC] revealed that there was a wide diversity of visitors coming to island for the festivities.
“Our carnival has shown continuous growth, not only in enhancing the experience for our locals, but also positioning Saint Lucia as a ‘must-visit destination’ for carnival enthusiasts,” she said.
Gibson added that it was “heartwarming to see the diversity and influx of visitors who come to be a part of this rich cultural activity. She said with the momentum gained from this year’s activities, “next year promises to be even bigger and brighter…an integral part of the success lies in the enthusiastic participation of our youth.”
Stressing on the importance of the youth involvement in the carnival festival, she noted: “For 2024, we are going to be focusing a lot more on having our young people involved in the carnival activities.
“It is imperative to highlight that their role as ‘torch bearers’ of our rigid tradition is extremely important. Their inclusion ensures that our carnival roots remain deep and the culture stays vibrant for generations to come by actively involving and investing in our young talents. This will not only ensure sustainability, but will ensure that our cherished culture remains on board for years to come.”
Executive Director of the Cultural Development Foundation [CDF], Ramona Henry- Wynne spoke about enhancing the cultural aspect of the carnival.
“For the CDF, the only way to foster the cultural component is through the developmental work that we would do … because the only way you can have that sort of impact…is to work in the areas that are most impactful, where you going to see that change,” said the CDF official.
She notes that the CDF is desirous “of tapping into the youth of the nation …and with junior calypsonians, junior carnival and junior bandleaders these are the persons that we can work with to ensure that our cultural heritage remains strong, and it remains an integral part of Saint Lucia Carnival.”
Henry-Wynne expressed that “culture is evolving, it is a phenomenon that is evolving …and we have to do the necessary developmental work to ensure that the culture remains high on the agenda and that it flourishes throughout carnival.”
Commenting on the promotional aspect of the carnival product in the overseas market, Executive Director of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority [SLTA] Lorine Charles -St Jules stated that global connectivity is integral in getting clients “who we feel can come to Saint Lucia for carnival”.
She said the “connectivity” aspect will help to resolve some of the “issues” that the SLTA have been experiencing in the overseas market, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SLTA official disclosed that the “international launch” of Saint Lucia Carnival will begin next week, with the presentation of the festival as “a destination product that will appeal to all those markets.”