Chief Executive Officer of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) Cranston Browne has agreed with a local promoter that Barbados has what it takes to become the entertainment capital of the Caribbean.
Speaking at the launch of the 2017 Digicel Barbados Reggae Festival last night at Kensington Oval, Director of FAS Promotions Al Gilkes reiterated the call he made during a previous launch, saying the time was ripe for such a move.
“I would like to refer you right now to what is happening in a neighbouring country, St Lucia, where they have moved away from just their single festival and now they’re having festivals throughout the year with the aim of becoming, in their words, ‘the festival country of the Caribbean,’” Gilkes told the gathering.
“And this isn’t just to provide St Lucians with entertainment, but to attract thousands of more tourists and visitors to that country. So I would like to again put in my appeal to the powers that be to consider us becoming the entertainment capital of the Caribbean,” he stressed.
In response, Browne, who was delivering remarks on behalf of the Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, said though he felt Barbados could become the entertainment hub of the region, its cultural sector needed a bit more stimulation.
He however praised the promoters of the reggae festival, for doing their part to boost both the cultural and tourism sectors.
“The festival has grown to be one of the leading music festivals in the Caribbean. This festival epitomizes the development of the cultural sector in Barbados and its contribution to the economic growth and development of the nation. Outside of the Crop Over festival, which is the high point for commercial activity for persons in the cultural sector, the reggae festival provides substantial earning capacity of the sector,” Browne said, even in the absence of needed financial data.
He therefore urged the promoters to produce empirical evidence of the impact they were making through the festival, saying, “Whereas countries like Jamaica can point to figures to show the contribution of music to their GDP, it is more difficult for Barbados to do so.
“It is for this reason that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, through the Cultural Industries Authority, commenced a systematic mapping of the cultural sector in December 2016. This, when completed, will show a true impact of the sector to national development. Such information is critical if empirical evidence is to be garnered to prove the worth of the sector to national development. This mapping will inform policy formulation and even funding of the sector. I take time out to request for FAS Entertainment to share their data as far as the impact on the cultural sector is concerned,” Browne said.
Before a gathering that included tourism stakeholders, the NCF boss also spoke of the contribution of the Barbados Reggae Festival to the overall tourism product.
“It has engendered brand equity and loyalty in terms of its image and creation of the festival atmosphere, the network forum and international exposure for local artistes . . . . The number of arrivals has been equally impressive. Every year, this festival attracts capacity crowds,” he said, adding that the festival, which runs from April 23-30, was like fine wine and getting better with time.
“The festival’s reputation is known far and wide, not only in Jamaica where reggae is king, but in the Diaspora and Europe and North America. I’m advised that there has been interest from as far as Russia. It attracts the best and brightest in entertainment and showcases local talent,” Browne added.
In her remarks, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner said the festival was considered to be Barbados’ biggest annual private sector entertainment production.
“The growth of the Barbados Reggae Festival highlights what is possible when entrepreneurship and vision coincide. We must not see it as just providing entertainment, but let us recognize that it adds value to our tourism industry and improves our overall product,” she said.
Sandiford-Garner said the contribution was reflected in the 5,000 tickets sold online ticket for the festival between 2015 and 2016.
“The hosting of this festival on an annual basis has the potential to create a multiplier effect on the economy. Importantly, it encourages travellers to visit Barbados during the slowest season, which stretches, from April to November. This not only helps to provide a year round tourism industry, but also has a knock on effect for the economy.
“Patrons of the festival are likely to book accommodation, rent vehicles, patronize restaurants and food outlets, purchase arts and crafts, and visit tourist attractions. So we welcome this festival as yet another boost for our tourism sector,” she added.