Jensen La Vende
TOURISM Minister Randall Mitchell on Friday lamented that the Carnival band launch season as he envisaged it, will not materialise this year.
Speaking at Tribe Family of Bands’ SUNSETWKN (Sunset Weekend) launch along Ariapita Avenue, where soca king Machel Montano was given the key to the city; Mitchell said he wants to convert Ariapita Avenue into a party strip.
This he said will allow for an entire month of weekend long band launches which will attract regional and international tourists outside of the Carnival while capturing the essence of Carnival and culture of TT.
“Culture in the tourism sector is the greatest export and we recognise that as a government. This is a part of the vision of the Ministry of Tourism. Dean (Akin CEO of Tribe Family of Bands) is right, Carnival is our greatest tourism product. But the culture of TT is our greatest cultural and tourism export. So why stop at carnival (season)?”
He said outside of Carnival there are those who have an insatiable appetite for the culture of the country. All of the Caribbean enjoys TT culture, he said, and that should be well marketed.
“There are many other months in the calendar. We may have a carnival in July or we should have a carnival or an event every other month. This was a vision of the Ministry of Tourism. We really wanted a band launch season. We wanted a very organised and packaged season where people who cannot come for Carnival, either because they could not get a flight or they could not get a hotel room, to be able to come and experience our culture during the band launch season which is a very important part of our calendar. And we didn’t get in last season. We weren’t able to plan it in time.”
He added that if weekends like SUNSETWKN is executed well and adopted by other bands it will ensure increased tourism, creating jobs for cultural workers. The enhancement of Ariapita Avenue, he said, is in keeping with the plans to revitalise Port of Spain to transform the Avenue into the entertainment capital of the Caribbean.
“That is another plan at the ministry, presently we have a project ongoing the enhancement of Ariapita Avenue, where we will put some major arch ways. We will develop the parks and ensure that the sidewalks and trees are planted etc. We will work together with the community because one of the most important things for the community is the safety and security and we will do that as we continue to develop the city of Port of Spain.”
In his address, creative director at Tribe, Valmiki Maharaj said the mind of a creative person amplifies and absorbs which makes the creators dreams that leads to reality such as the SUNSETWKN. He told those gathered, including Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi and Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland, that Carnival is more than just a two-day party parade but a deep ancestral calling for the people.
Akin, in his address said the weekend-long activity includes a street parade that will show a Broadway-esque depiction of Carnival. He said the idea came from innovation during the pandemic with productions such as Lavway.
Those attending the free event experience a fitness routine on Saturday morning, and the band launch for it six band brands – Tribe, Bliss, The Lost Tribe, Harts, Rogue and Pure – which took place on Saturday night. This will be at the Jean Pierre Complex. The weekend will end off with a fete at the Hasley Crawford Stadium entitled Las Jam Carnival on Sunday.
“Those of us who survived a pandemic need to rebuild, rethink and develop our product offerings to a level that will have an impact on the tourism sector and this is what Sunset Weekend is. Carnival is the biggest tourism product that TT has to offer and attracts 30,000 visitors each year and therefore fuels the economy. At a time when oil and gas reserves are depleting, and when the world is moving towards sustainable energy, it is obvious that the time will come when the country’s revenue will have to come from another source.
He said the time to start building other industries was now and the country has a large talent pool to use. He said creativity and innovation must be married as one is thinking of new things while the other is doing it adding that creative people must use both to attract tourists.
Mitchell ended his remarks saying: “A lot has been said about dreams, this is a dream come true and I hope in months to come we can have more and more of these types of festivals and more of these types of weekends.”