Coronavirus
JM | Oct 8, 2020

Bankay and other party enterprises will come back strong in 2021

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today

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Carnival in Jamaica, a staple on the local entertainment calendar is among the major events that have taken a huge hit amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). (Photo: VisitJamaica.com)

Covid-19 put paid to this year’s party weekends with Jamaica and the entire world living in a paradigm of social distancing, masks and  restrictions placed on people gathering together in a confined space.

The expenses incurred in preparation for these events are unfathomable and unlike the banking houses, there is no loss provision-this being perhaps a once-in-a-century event.

Many of the organisers will no doubt attempt to seek recompense from the Government via the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). Unlike most developed countries, Jamaica just cannot bear those costs with its health sector already under siege and the economy cratering.

It may well be that these businesses will have to take account for such occurrences in future contractual arrangements. You live and learn as they say.

Eyebrows were raised when Director of Public Relations for Dream Entertainment, (the company behind Negril’s Dream Weekend), Kamal Bankay estimated that cancelling the event this year will cost the country some J$4 billion (US$28.5 million) in revenue.

He went on to explain why he had come to that figure citing hotel accommodation costs, artistes bookings,  DJs’ fees, lighting, drinks, security, and the whole panoply that goes into pulling off these spectacular shows of revelry.

Director of Public Relations for Dream Entertainment and Chairman of Carnival in Jamaica, Kamal Bankay. (Photo: Don Waysome)

There is the unknown to contend with if organisers insist that these parties should go ahead. Breaches of set government stipulations, breaching of curfews, will people be in a celebratory mood? Will they even have the money, given that many are out of work or have to settle for substantially reduced salaries.

Perhaps it’s better to cancel this year, wait for the dust to settle and plan for a highly anticipated mass turnout next year, hopefully with the deleterious effects of the virus behind us. It’s a bitter pill to swallow now but making preparations for next year with even more patrons expected could sweeten that pill.

Dream Weekend has been taking place for eleven years and is a bonanza for the tourism enclave of Negril. This year’s cancellation is disappointing and those from the community who earn from it will have to go without during this tough time.

The Dream Weekend team has built an impressive business that must be allowed to go on and be a fillip to the tourism industry. They have provided a good advertisement for Jamaican entertainment.

Questions are being asked about when carnival can take place. Right now, the virus appears to be in its second wave with the number of infections and deaths escalating. Carnival will only serve as a petri dish and with 20,000 bacchanalians on the streets of Kingston, it could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Both Robert Wong’s Sparkles Entertainment and Solomon Sharpe’s Main Event Entertainment have proven to be transformational businesses that have upped the ante on the local entertainment scene. They have taken a big hit this year, not of their own making. They must endure and come back bigger and better next year- provided we have seen the back of Covid at its most virulent.

At the same time, the government must make a concerted effort to help the sector recover and put in place ameliorative measures to make up for what may entertainment businesses have undergone. Entertainment is undoubtedly a big driver of the economy, with both an import and export component.  Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange must listen to their entreaties and act quickly to come to the aid of many of these businesses.

Jodi Shaw of Spotlight Productions assessment sums up the situation. She is reported to have said: “We think it’s a necessary sacrifice that we all have to make in the interest of our country.”

“Nevertheless, it is a hard blow especially for our contractors that work with us, the riggers technicians, operators and programmers are all affected and it is worse when you consider the socio-economic background of some persons where they have to work to put food on the table,” Shaw added.

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