Some of the country’s leading promoters are up in arms over an apparent Government decision to scrap this year’s Crop Over festival, ban all party cruises, and allow limited land events with no more than 150 patrons.
Sources close to the situation revealed that the plans were shared during an industry meeting on Tuesday, that was chaired by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and included key officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).
In addition to the cumbersome restrictions on the floundering industry, Barbados TODAY has also learned that unvaccinated patrons must be COVID-19 PCR tested within 48-hours of each of the scaled down events.
In response to concerns about the profitability of events if restricted to such small numbers, authorities have also floated the idea of offering a $5,000 grant to assist the promoters.
When contacted on Wednesday, President of the Entertainers Association of Barbados (EAB), Rudy Maloney confirmed that the talks occurred, but he declined to provide details pending an official announcement from the relevant authorities.
“I want to give the Prime Minister the opportunity, based on what she said, to be the one to deliver the message. And then I could give you any comments after. We have to send a document to her today for her to review before she makes her statement. So I don’t want to skip the process and disrespect her office,” Maloney told Barbados TODAY.
Efforts to reach Minister in the Prime Minister’s office with responsibility for culture John King were unsuccessful.
Since then, numerous other industry players have come forward, expressing serious concern about the direction of the ongoing discussions.
While most have asked to have their identities withheld, Baggio Best, one of the lead promoters of entertainment group Flavanation, declared that pleasure cruise operators, promoters of events on land, and even artistes, are victims of a biased framework of COVID-19 protocols.
He explained that the proposed reduced numbers of patrons are simply too few for promoters to break even, and questioned their motives in the face of robust debate about an apparent difference in treatment of local promoters when compared with the overseas counterparts.
“One hundred and fifty people cannot pay for a land event, especially when you are bringing structures like a stage and decking. So we went in asking for 750 [patrons], because 750 people can pay for an event,” Best told Barbados TODAY.
“What [Mottley] is saying is that if the 150 people work and there are no cases, she would increase the numbers. But anything less than 500 people makes no sense for a land event in Barbados,” he added.
Even more puzzling to the promoter is the administration’s policy on cruises, which have been banned across the board. Best contended that such events are much easier to police than land events and pointed out a disparity between the treatment of cruises when compared with high-end catamarans.
“That is the reason she gave, but I honestly think there is more to it. I think they basically have a problem with cruises, but a lot of people benefit from cruises,” said Best
“You are saying that 50 people can hold on a catamaran, but the [MC] Buccaneer and the MV Dream Chaser are much bigger than a catamaran and you are saying that some number can’t be accommodated on these vessels? There is a lot of nonsense going on in this country.
“You are saying you cannot police cruises, but I think cruises are easier to police than a land event, because there are all kinds of loopholes where you could get into a land event,” he added.
Efforts to reach Dream Chaser managers, John Moore and Russell Wilson were unsuccessful. Days ago, however, the two launched a campaign to make Barbadians aware of “what cruise life is actually about”.
“We believe with all that is going on in our island, we would like to have our voices heard as well, in a forum where we are not misrepresented,” the two said on the Dream Chaser’s Instagram page.
Another stakeholder criticised the “short sightedness” of the Government, noting that the mere prospect of Crop Over would have had a spinoff effect on the struggling sectors.
“More clothes are going to be sold if there is entertainment, people on the side who sell food will sell more food, because of entertainment. When people leave parties late at night, everybody finds their way down to Baxter’s Road or in the [St Lawrence] Gap for a gap burger. So all of these things help people to generate money,” the official added.
On the other hand, the measures seem more consistent with advice from the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, which last week shared a long list of protocols for the festival, based on their professional analysis.
At the time, the association told Barbados TODAY that preference for event attendance should be given to fully vaccinated patrons and that all venues should be outdoors.
Further suggestions include online pre-registration of events based on negative test results, the provision of health-screening questionnaires, a personal limit to one event per person per day, and close monitoring of each event in collaboration with the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit.
The association is also calling for a significant increase in vaccinations, sustained ‘low’ positivity rates and increased testing for variants, before authorities even consider the launch of a festival.