Crop Over Adding To Barbados??? Creativity

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From left: 2011 Calypsd Monarch, David Hall; Marketing Manager of the BTA, Averil Byer; Chairman of the BTA Board, Adrian Elcock; Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy and Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, field questions from the media at the press conference. (A. Miller/BGIS)??

The Crop Over festival, coupled with the staging of a concert by Barbadian international superstar Rihanna, demonstrate not only what this country can offer, but reflects even more the true creativity of its people.

Crop Over, as a festival, has been enjoying increased success for decades now. It has now ballooned into a multi-million dollar business that adds much foreign exchange to the economy, while at the same time bolstering the tourism industry when the summer season’s numbers are down. Over the last few weeks, patrons not only had the opportunity to see the best of the island’s calypsonians performing in the tents and the Cavalcades, but were able to sample culinary delights indigenous to Barbados at Bridgetown Market, and view the visual arts exhibits, along with joining in the revelry of Grand Kadooment. And, there is scope for more attractions as the festival continues to expand.

Speaking to journalists about the festival at a press conference at Hilton Barbados recently, Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, noted,"… Crop Over as a festival has its origins, not in the fantastic jubilation that you see displayed on the streets during Kadooment, but it is rooted in the kind of experience that our fore-parents would have encountered as a result of slavery and as a result of our prime crop at the time, the sugar cane. When it came to an end, they always made merry to celebrate the end of the crop…

"And, over the years this celebration has mushroomed into a national festival, which celebrates the end of the sugar harvest, but it is now much more than that. It is now a true cultural festival which manifests itself in a number of different ways with the various persons involved in artistic and cultural expression evolving over the years. So today, for example, we celebrate not only calypso in Crop Over, but we celebrate folk music as well. We also celebrate gospel. We celebrate the work of our renowned artistes in our various displays of art. And, of course, we celebrate the traditions of our own people, who always utilise the Crop Over Festival as a means of getting involved in commerce to varying degrees; whether they are vendors, whether they are commercial houses, or the Barbados Tourism Authority which is our lead agent in relation to the marketing of Barbados internationally …"

Emphasis was also placed on marketing the festival in a unique way and the importance of tapping into the lucrative diaspora programme was significant to its success. In this regard, Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy, said the early stages were "very long and arduous", but he gave the assurance that government was working to develop the Barbados families and friends initiative, since the online programme allowed members of the diaspora to work effectively as a sales force.

"We have about 1500 members at the moment. A couple of years ago we didn’t have any. Barbadians living and working in our main source market and elsewhere are encouraging their family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, and persons they go to church with to take a vacation in Barbados. It is working, it is helping and the numbers are reflecting that," he disclosed.?? Moreover, the success of Crop Over was also strengthened by over half-a million dollars budgeted for promotional work. It represents more than four times the $100,000 earmarked for previous years. On this point, Mr. Sealy declared: "That is unprecedented. We have never seen those levels of resources put into marketing the Crop Over Festival. And this was integrated into the worldwide marketing programme of the Barbados Tourism Authority and all the markets had to report and come up with initiatives. So we had co-opt advertising in Canada, in the UK radio promotions. ??"There were online promotions – all in an effort to get more people here for Crop Over. Obviously, the USA took the lion’s share of that budget – $278,000. The Canadian market – $122,000.?? [In] South America we spent $80,000 and in the United Kingdom we spent just over $100,000. So we are now starting to see Crop Over as a significant occurrence on the calendar from a tourism perspective as well and committing the resources and pulling the BHTA along as well."

Considering the record number of persons who journeyed to these shores for Crop Over, it was a chance for hotels to see increased bookings. However, the practice by some hotels to close for refurbishment at this time of the year was described by the tourism minister as "tantamount to an abomination", since this was "a time when all the hotels should be full and over flowing. You shouldn’t see a major plant out of production preparing for the winter during the Crop Over season. ??Crop Over 2012 will be launched in November this year. The festival is expected to be bigger and better, allowing Barbadians of every persuasion to again showcase their talent to the world.

clashley@barbados.gov.bb

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