To look at it from a pure accounting, profitability analysis, I think you would get a distorted figure. But when you look at it from a broader economic perspective,” said Louis Lewis, “it more than pays for itself, because it gives us visibility in areas we could not afford, if we had to make a direct purchase. It also gives us sustained promotions outside of the market place.”
Saint Lucia’s director of tourism made the observation at a press meeting on Wednesday, in response to a question about the profitability of this year’s Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.
It certainly was not the first time the SLTB was called upon to justify the expense of staging the annual event that this year celebrated its 22nd anniversary. Louis’ response was predictable, of course. Director after tourism director before had defended the festival as a marketing promotions tool, not a generator of vital foreign exchange.
This year the event cost the government a reported EC$8 million, a reported large chunk of which was swallowed up by the new arts component.
Just before handing over to Louis, John Emmanuel, the SLTB’s PR manager, expressed his thanks to attendant media representatives for their support. “We’ve always seen this as a partnership,” he said. “We run the festival and try to coordinate every aspect as perfectly as possible. Of course we depend on the media to bring all of that to an audience, irrespective of your own thoughts about the festival. We have consistently asked for fairness and balance and we think largely we got that.”
As for Lewis, he thought it “very important that we have this wrap up discussion with the media. This is really a review of the year’s Jazz & Arts Festival and, as you know, in 2012 we embarked on a special exercise to reenergize and reinvigorate the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival, having recognized that it had some deficiencies in terms of its original objectives.”
With the 2013 event, he said, the SLDB had largely succeeded in what it set out to achieve: “The most significant adjustment in the festival was the incorporation of the arts and we saw that come to the fore. The public responded positively, judging by the large attendance and the feedback.”
He expressed satisfaction with the coverage by the international press. He also alluded to the return of what he described as “several behind the scenes” activities, such as the master classes in music and dance, facilitated by the board in conjunction with various partners.
Tracey Warner Arnold, the board’s deputy director, explained the various indicators that underscored the success of this year’s festival. The renamed event, she said, continued to be viewed as a means of positioning the island with a global brand within the industry and to generate social and economic returns through foreign exchange.
According to Arnold, the evaluation indicators of success included surveys of people who said they specifically came here for the festival, the immigration cards, PR coverage and value, feedback from partners and event survey responses ,as well as the direct expenditure of Jazz festival patrons.
“In terms of media this year,” she said, “we had from the United States the Huffington Post, Upscale magazine, Scoreboard magazine, The Washington Post, Soul of America.com, Pathfinders Magazine, the Insider and Wsee TV.” From the UK there were the Daily Star, the Daily Mirror, the BBC and others. What had attracted the BBC most of all was the arts component, Arnold said, adding: “They expressed serious interest in producing a documentary about the arts and its infusion into the festival and that is likely to come off in 2014.” The festival had also attracted media from across the Caribbean and Canada.
According to preliminary reports on the surveys done on the festival sixty four percent of patrons at the event were visitors, compared to fifty-four percent in 2012. The majority of persons were from the Caribbean region, however the UK registered twenty seven percent of patrons up from fourteen percent in 2012.
Patrons’ assessment of the festival also improved this year. The overall rating of the event was “fifty seven percent good and thirty percent excellent, while 64 percent said this year’s event was much better or better than before.”
Additionally: “This was the best year for visitor arrivals directly for the festival. Our records show there were about 3,500 persons who actually came in for the festival,” by Lewis’ account. According to the director, about twenty five percent of the island’s annual visitor arrivals come here having heard of Saint Lucia through the Jazz festival. This number he says accounts for approximately 100,000 people.
Questions were also raised about the viability of the straight ahead Jazz events at Gaiety. “We have been dialoguing just internally with what happens with Gaiety and we don’t have an answer yet,” Arnold said.
However, according to Lewis, these are the events that put the name Jazz into the festival and are well attended by French patrons. Asked how the board planned to guarantee the musical integrity of the festival and prevent a repeat of Akon’s lip-synching, Lewis said: “That is something we have to look at. In the past there were established conditions. We restricted performances on tracks. But when it came to lip-synching, we were taken off guard.” Judging by the feedback, he said, patrons were not amused!
This year’s Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival opened with record numbers of some 6000 attending the April 30 show at Mindoo Phillip Park. It closed on May 12, with seven thousand paying patrons showing up for performances by openers Emrand Henry, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Brian Culbertson and The O’Jays, not to mention the knockout headliner R. Kelly.