Local event promoters are refusing to be silent about what they see as an uneven playing field between locals and visitors in relation to the hosting of events.
President of the Entertainers Association of Barbados (EAB), Rudy Maloney, on Thursday revealed that a four-day event advertised under the Haywire Events brand is not sitting well with local promoters, who, since March of this year have been left in the dark about the future of the dormant industry.
The event, which appears to have been planned for July 2-6, with the apparent blessing of the Ministry of Tourism, has been marketed to tourists as one that will include “parties”, “champagne showers”, “beautiful people” and “exhilarating excursions”.
While it is unclear exactly how many patrons will be arriving for the event, organizers recently increased the number of luxury hotel rooms by adding an additional property. The packages ranging from US $1550 to $1650 include accommodation, photography and an airport shuttle. Airfare, food and a security deposit will come at an additional cost.
The real bone of contention however is that the country’s existing COVID-19 protocols prohibit parties, banquets, balls, dances or receptions; bus crawls, ‘limes’, karaoke, picnics or other vehicular excursions.
Moreover, promoters have seemingly been waiting in vain for some definitive word on when entertainment events will be allowed to resume.
“If there is information being shared, let everybody who is in the industry understand what is the information, what are the protocols etcetera. That is all we are asking. The fact that someone from overseas can announce an event from the 2nd to the 6th of July, we as the event promoters in Barbados should also be able to say ‘we are having events from the 2nd to the 6th of July also and onward’,” Maloney told Barbados TODAY.
“We are not being malicious, we just want to understand what is happening and how we can be a part of what is happening. We are not out here to stop Haywire, because we want visitors. But we want to say ‘let us plan our events too’, so that we could bring visitors to Barbados,” he added.
In response to tremendous criticism from Barbadians on call-in programmes and online, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins chided critics for using the event to “inflame the passions of Barbadians”.
Cummins however acknowledged that whilst the Haywire event is neither hosted nor sponsored by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), the organisation has been providing guidance on protocols.
In fact, she suggested the visitors would provide much needed revenue for a tourism dependent economy that is currently ailing from the pandemic.
“It is unfortunate that some people, who for their own purpose, would then take videos of events which occurred before COVID and present them for circulation to inflame the passions of Barbadians, as if events the entire world over have not had to change since COVID. We no longer do events the way that we did before COVID. So it just makes no sense for us to try to incense people to suggest that there is any reason why this would be any different,” said Minister Cummins.
“It would be no different for the organisers of Haywire or any other group from anywhere in the world – white, black, yellow, blue, proposing to travel to Barbados because tourism is our business. What’s more, is that we also have to be confident in who we are and the fact that Barbados and Barbadians are about far more than excessive drinking and excessive feting. And that is definitely the case for our tourism product,” the Government Senator added.
Maloney however contended that the ministry’s willingness to work with overseas promoters suggests even further exclusion of local promoters from Government’s plans for the future.
He noted that despite Senator Cummin’s assurances, the event continues to be marketed to patrons as a ‘weekend’ of revelry.
“Is it that partying and being in close proximity will be part of the new protocols? We don’t know, because they have not been shared with us, but it appears that they have been shared with them,” Maloney contended.
“In this sector our intention is not to stop anyone from making money, doing their events or anything like that. All we are asking for is a level playing field.
“Currently there is no traction happening, not only with events in general, but even with Crop Over. We did everything that was asked of us as entities… we met with the NCF [National Cultural Foundation], had discussions and we are still awaiting word,” the EAB president added.
On Thursday, the association met to discuss their plans for Crop Over despite the deafening silence from authorities.
In the midst of the controversy, culture minister John King has distanced the Division of Culture from Haywire’s promoters.
“At this point, I will categorically state the Division of Culture which I have the ministerial responsibility for is not privy to or involved in any way with the Haywire event(s). Therefore I cannot speak to the matter at hand without conducting due diligence,” King tweeted on Wednesday. ([email protected])