Thursday, April 16, 2009

Romantic Report to the Nation


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


Last year Antigua and Barbuda launched Romantic Rhythms during the month of June. The festival was supposed to have attracted international visitors who were supposed to “fall in love as the lyrical beauty engulfed the entire destination.”

The islands of Antigua and Barbuda were touted to be “Love Islands” since the nation was an “award winning destination for Weddings and Honeymoons.”

The festival itself featured an international who-is-who in the music world with the likes of Lionel Ritchie, Kenny Rogers, Keyshia, Brian McKnight, Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Damian Marley and many others. To be truthful, I am not sure that all of these artists performed… but I do know that many of them showed up and wowed the crowd.

Thousands of people attended. Antiguans that is… and maybe some visitors from around the Caribbean sea.

But did the festival attract the visitors who were the ultimate targets? Who were they? Tourists from across the Atlantic Ocean. How many of them came?

Nine months later we cannot answer that question.

It has been reported that the Government budgeted EC$3mllion for the hosting of the festival. But unconfirmed reports suggest that the festival went over budged to the tune of an additional EC$2million.

How much revenue did the ticket sales generate? Indeed, since there were so many hundreds (even thousands) of ‘complimentary’ tickets being given away, I have grave doubts about the number of tickets that were actually sold. But, I really don’t know.

And, nine months later no one seems to be able to answer that question.

Apparently, the organizers were able to secure sponsorship from many businesses. The major sponsors included Cable & Wireless, The ABI Financial Group, American Airlines, LIAT, and Chevrolet. Sponsors were categorized as Euphoria (top sponsors), Amorous, Elation and Quixotic!

The question is whether or not the sponsors got a sense of euphoria because of the return on their marketing investments? By the way, how much did they invest? In addition to the Government’s investment, how much did the organizers get from the sponsors? What was the total investment?

Nine months later, there have been no answers to that question.

So far this year, I have heard no public announcements about the staging of the festival. Will we or won’t we? Which artists will headline the event? How much will it cost the Government? Are the sponsors elated about putting their money on the line this year?

Reportedly, many small businesses that provided services at last years event are dissatisfied. What is the nature of their dissatisfaction? Is it about money?

It is clear that the people who attended got a treat… I was about to say that they got their money’s worth…. but since many of them got ‘complimentary’ tickets… Let’s just say that they got much more than they expected.

Every attendee to whom I spoke was elated and even euphoric about the performances. Yes, many of them had criticisms about the time wasted between the performances, etc. But overwhelmingly they were happy… very very happy – young, old… and in between came away planning to attend the next festival…

If this was the goal of the festival… to provide Antiguans and Barbudans with an electrifying and quixotic romantic treat… then that goal was achieved… at a cost of over five million dollars.

Let me be clear… The festival was good… very good!

Yet, if the goal was to develop an annual festival that would bring thousands of international visitors to our shores, then we need our questions answered. How many international visitors came for the inaugural show? How much money was collected at the gates? How many dollars came from sponsors? Have all the debts been paid?

Are we having another festival this year… and what are the projections about costs, number of potential visitors, and what are the projected returns on investment for sponsors? How are potential sponsors responding?

Nine months later, we are asking questions… there have been no answers… and no one seems to want to respond.

What are the numbers?

Given the economic climate that has unfolded since last year, answers to those questions are critically important.

Given the political climate in our nation at this time, and given the new dispensation’s commitment to transparency and clarity, those questions need to be answered without hesitation.

We must remember the historic and corrupt practices that we suffered during the 28 years of a previous administration. During that time, no one could get answers to questions about payments, purchases, or profits that related to public projects.

Let’s not return to those days. Let’s fulfill the promise of transparency and openness.

Answer the questions posted in this blog.

Give us the numbers… even if they are, un-romantic, even if they fail to stimulate amorous feelings within us… and even if we are not elated or euphoric…

Lets have the Romantic Report to the Nation…