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Smart Bajans

Saturday, May 14th 2005
Trinidad Express Opinion

Historically, the people of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago have exchanged jibes about each other's perspicacity, albeit implying that such astuteness is used for deception rather than noble causes, but a statement this week from the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) of Barbados puts a welcome twist on the old claim.

At Wednesday's promotional presentation for this year's Crop Over Festival in Barbados, NCF Chairman Al Gilkes raised the possibility of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados collaborating on international marketing of festivals in both countries, extending the concept to include other Caribbean carnivals.

"In the Caribbean there is hardly a month where you can't find a festival," Mr Gilkes observed, asking in tandem: "Why should we be marketing these things individually?" It was a view echoed by his countryman Stuart Layne, president of the Barbados Tourism Authority, who felt confident such synergy would accomplish much more for each partner.

Even as we congratulate the Barbadian contingent for proposing joint ventures in extra-regional cultural and tourism promotions, we feel certain a groundswell of suspicion and perhaps even protest might issue from this suggestion, if only on the basis of historical suspicion of motives.

Cries of "selling out" or negative comments about consorting with those who desire to raid our flagship cultural products will likely surface, at much the same volume as has attended any non-Trinidad ventures involving the steelpan. But it is indeed high time we be less parochial about communicating our messages to the world, particularly since the time is long past when it would have been possible for anybody to "steal" the arts inherent to the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

While locals often lament the absence of Trinidad and Tobago's promotional material on powerful American television networks and by the same opportunity envy advertising frequency of tourist attractions in neighbouring countries, few stop to contemplate the cost-effectiveness of such initiatives.

The sheer cost of placing inserts on network television demands a compelling return on investment if we are not to be further pilloried for throwing good money down the tube. Collaboration in advertising products that enjoy commonality would positively cushion against what is bound to be a hefty outlay.

Messrs Gilkes and Layne must have thought long and hard about making such a proposal here, since they could not have avoided contemplating possible negative fallout, but deeper analysis of this concept vindicates any risk associated with biting the bullet.

If countries in the region remain dedicated to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), several more proposals along the lines of the Barbadian idea will soon come along.


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