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Masquerader from Lost Tribe crosses the Queen’s Park Savannah stage on carnival Tuesday 2020.

Peter Christopher

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KEY POINTS

* Bandleaders say early signs of high demand for Carnival 2023

* Cost of costumes to go up as inflation impacts festival

* Worry about the amount of airlift available to get to T&T

* Finding a room could prove difficult for some as hotels almost full

The sidewalks of Ariapita Avenue are lined with people sipping on their preferred or available beverages.

Music trucks blast soca music to make the crowd dance and sway as they await Tribe’s Sunset Theatre presentation at Adam Smith Square.

It is a true image of Carnival, but that was the scene on Friday as the band kicked off its band launch weekend.

After two years without a proper reign of the Merry Monarch, Tribe’s chief executive officer Dean Ackin is expectant of a truly great Carnival 2023 based on the early indicators.

“I think it’s going to be a bumper Carnival,” he told the Business Guardian. Towards the end of the taste of Carnival held earlier this year, the mas band tested just how hungry their followers were for a proper Carnival. Their patrons were eager to order.

“Carnival Tuesday earlier this year, 2022, still during COVID, what we did to test the temperature was we did a surprise or registration to our masqueraders. We would have sent out an email on carnival Tuesday 2022 telling them, listen if they’re interested in our Carnival 2023, book a spot. And based on that I could see that there’s a very high level of anticipation and the demand is high for Carnival 2023. Because a number of people would have registered and booked their spot back then. We would have given them 24 hours and it was a little but frenzy at that point in time,” he said.

The band launch period has been similarly frenetic. Apart from Friday’s event the response to the other events billed as part of Tribe’s Sunset weekend has also been very encouraging.

“Based on ticket sales for the events over the weekend, even the free event that we have on this Saturday morning Sun Sweat, which is a Soca fitness event, where you have to register. It is oversubscribed,” he said.

He explained that he felt this was partially due to the pandemic, as it had built a desire to experience something like Carnival.

“I think people want to get back out. They want to enjoy life again. You know, they want to have fun. They want that escape. And yeah, Carnival is bringing that to them. So if I was to say based on this weekend and based on the feedback, based on the demand for the ticket sales you know, on the registration for Sun sweat, etc Yeah, I would say Carnival 2023 looks pretty, pretty good,” he said.

Bandleader Ronnie McIntosh has also seen similar demand for his band Ronnie and Caro.

“The excitement is there, the excitement has been there since the announcement was made. So our social media pages were all excitement (from patrons). We have had a promotion called ‘book your spot’ where people could have made a slight downpayment in advance to book their spot for 2023 and that was quite successful. We had a lot of people booking their spot to make sure they get the section of their choice basically. So, the excitement is building, especially from abroad,” said the two-time former Soca Monarch, who noted that there were other indications that Carnival 2023 is a hot ticket currently.

“If you check the hotels they will tell you that things are already tight now,” he said, “So if the hoteliers can say the bookings already tight, you know those are the ones who play the mas, those are the ones who participate in the Carnival in terms of playing mas.”

He also noted that other industries connected to Carnival are now scrambling to ensure that they have their affairs in order to cater to the expected demand.

McIntosh said, “So when you hear the hotels book out and then the car rentals having a problem too because in the pandemic they were forced to sell off of their vehicles on their fleet. Now that the demand is back they have to find money to buy new vehicles to increase their fleet. So as long as those people bubbling so to speak, then you know demand bubbling. So the excitement is definitely there.”

“Yes! It’s been two years since our last Carnival, so there is heightened excitement and anticipation to wear a costume and to parade the streets,” Tanya Gomes, YUMA’s director told the Business Guardian. She explained that like Tribe and Ronnie and Caro, their pre-registration was highly successful.

“It’s a programme we started in 2020. For this upcoming Carnival, the pre-registration numbers tripled what we had in 2020,” said Gomes,”(The response has been) extremely positive. Our Yumans know what they want, and they have not stopped registering. We are very grateful.”

She said there has been a continuous buzz since it was made clear that Carnival would be back.

“There aren’t words to describe the level of excitement among the team. We’re on level 1000%,” she said.

But amid the excitement, Ackin is still relatively cautious, as there is still a long way to go before Carnival 2023 kicks off.

He explained that as the bands prepare for the event, there are faced with significant challenges that were created by the pandemic.

“I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch. So I’m still always cautious. There are a number of things that have changed with COVID. The supply chain issues that are being experienced worldwide. The hyperinflation. I call it hyperinflation because every week prices are changing in the last couple of weeks, right. And we have to price of product now to deliver in six or seven months times and we are experiencing that with our suppliers right now for materials,” he said.

The Tribe bandleader said the band is working to ensure their product is in no way compromised as a result of these issues, but it has left the band with a bit of a balancing act.

“One week the prices is a certain thing, a certain price, and then next week, there’s like a slight change. So that is going to be a challenge for us. You know, it would have been caused by the pandemic and then followed up by the war. So we have challenges it’s not gonna be easy, we trying to keep the product affordable. But you know, it’s a lot that we offer or the experiences , we always say, I always say we sell an experience. The costume is complimentary,” he said,.

“The point is that there’s a lot that goes into creating that experience and every element or every facet of that experience has a cost to it. so our accounting department right now is the busiest department trying to figure out what it would look like you know.”

He also noted that the country would need to provide accommodation to match the high demand.

“But as usual, the thing is accommodation and flights are usually what restricts the number of people coming into the country. So as much as they may be a great demand, can we accommodate them would be the question, you know, that’d be country,” he said.

But based on the reaction to the weekend so far, Carnival 2023’s anticipation is truly palpable.