National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters holds firm to his belief that a Tobago Carnival must be established as a permanent feature of the island’s cultural identity.
Peters said a Tobago Carnival, in October, could surpass its Trinidad equivalent in terms of profitability.
“I have been saying that since in the 1990s. Since in the days of Richard Afong (masman) we have been trying to have a separate Carnival in Tobago,” he said.
“The economics of Carnival will tell you that if you have a Carnival in Tobago – a separate, well-planned Carnival, well-orchestrated, with all the elements of a real Carnival and promoted all over the world – Tobago Carnival has the potential to be more financially viable and profitable than Trinidad Carnival.”
Peters said Tobago, given its status as the tourism hub of the country, already had strengths on which it can capitalise.
“And the way that Carnival goes, it is a whole cycle. Carnival starts in Trinidad and ends in Miami at the moment.
“If, at the end of October, when all over the world starts to get cold – North America is cold, Europe is cold and people looking for a place to go and you have a stand alone Carnival where you can advertise Tobago Carnival, people will want a place to go.”
Peters went on: “If held in October that would be the last Carnival in the circuit and that would make Tobago something.”
His stance comes amid growing concerns among some Tobago stakeholders over what they consider to be the festival’s declining appeal on the island.
On Friday, Kelvon Morris, spokesman for the advocacy group Citizens In Support of Tobago Development, said the issue of Tobago having its own Carnival must be revisited urgently. The group is planning to host what it calls a stakeholders’ conversation this week.
As Peters sees it, Tobago Carnival, in its existing state, “is losing out big in having its Carnival together with Trinidad Carnival.
“Because even people from Tobago come to Trinidad for Carnival. But if Tobago has their own stand alone Carnival, what you will have is reverse local tourism because you now have people from Trinidad going to Tobago Carnival.
“And quite apart from that, because of the internal local tourism we have, you will have people from all over not just coming to Tobago on Carnival days but for all of the pre-Carnival activities. The world would come to Tobago and it will make it an even better tourism destination than it is right now.”
Asked if, as NCC chairman, he intends to at least open a forum for serious debate on the issue, Peters said: “Although I have been saying this for years, I am a voice in the wilderness because Tobago is a territorial place and if something is not coming from Tobago, it may not be something that they would want. But, if they don’t want it, that is their business.”
He added: “Just now, you will see one of those other Caribbean islands with a Carnival again somewhere and we will stay down here and say, like the Shadow (late Dr Winston Bailey) song, “Ah coulda do this and shoulda do that.”’
Peters is convinced Tobago could make money with its own Carnival.