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THA reveals millions in losses from Tobago Carnival and Jazz Experience

After spending $9.2 million to execute Tobago’s Carnival last October and then $11.9 million for the Tobago Jazz Experience, the Tobago House of Assembly has revealed that it was all done at a loss.

At a Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Wednesday, the administration confirmed that the events bombed.

JSC member Laurence Hislop revealed to his other colleagues that the island’s Carnival cost $9,207,183. The THA meanwhile spent $8,368,153, corporate sponsors contributed $830,000 and $9,030 worth of tickets were sold, resulting in a loss of $706,317.58.

Hislop questioned the Division of Finance, Trade and the Economy employees on whether it made sense to host Carnival again in the next four months, considering the THA did not break even.

Chief technical advisor Anselm Richards defended the event, saying: “The Tobago Carnival was not conceptualised as a profit-making event from the perspective of the THA but rather a vehicle to bring human traffic into the island, if you understand the nature of the Tobago economy. You need human traffic to generate economic activity, commercial activity on the island.”

He said a study of the event was conducted by the TTAL research department, but it had not yet been peer reviewed.

Meanwhile, the Tobago Jazz Experience suffered a loss of $6.4 million.

The JSC was told that the income for the event was $5,516,385, the THA provided a subvention of $3.1 million, Carib Brewery contributed $330,000 in corporate donations, ticket sales amounted to $2.4 million, and account receivables were $37,000.

“The total expenditure was in the vicinity of about $11.9 million. And so there again, based on submissions from the division, we have a deficit of $6,402,786,” Hislop revealed.

Secretary Burris, in a GML report, said it was never an issue of the THA seeking to make a profit off the events, but rather for businesses in the tourism sector, including hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and vendors, to benefit.

“The Carnival was designed to be an economic driver, so the purpose of having the event is to get people into Tobago to be able to market the destination, to have a new event on our calendar that could attract certain numbers of persons into the space during a time that is a traditional low season. So, we knew that in the first year, there would be some significant investment that we would have to make,” Burris said.

She also reminded that the Tobago Jazz Experience never made a profit and said it will no longer be funded solely by the THA going forward.

“We decided to make this the last year in terms of its current incarnation, because we feel that the Tobago House of Assembly has to get out of the business of being event promoters and we actually want the private sector to get more involved in driving the events tourism industry,” she said.