Entertainment/ Sports Lawyer Carla Parris

The recently streamed clash between Jamaican dancehall MC’s Bennie Man and Bounty Killer called Verzuz, has arguably resulted in greater global influence of Jamaican culture – but it has also given rise to discussions about T&T’s plan and future for marketing its culture and entertainment industry.

This is the contention of Carla Parris, entertainment/sports lawyer and CEO producer of The Business of Carnival You Tube Series .

Responding to questions posed by the Business Guardian (BG), Parris said: “The recent battle has caused many discussions in T&T’s music industry. Many of whom are focused on the strength of our national identity and debates about the strength of our own Caribbean marketing platforms.”

She continued: “Most importantly it should cause our government agencies to think about the strength and weaknesses of brand T&T.”

Verzuz, where music artistes go against each other on a weekly Instagram Live in a head-to-head battle, was created by music producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland.

According to reports, the recent online event that pitted Bennie Man and Bounty Killer against each other also drew the likes of international celebrities like Diddy, DJ Khaled, Ashanti and many more. The Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness also tweeted on his official Twitter page during the event, “Jamaica’s culture is global.”

Weighing in on the matter was Commander in Chief of Caesar’s Army, Jules Sobion who said that a similar type of event can be used to promote T&T and the Caribbean, but not in the same format as was used by the artistes in Verzuz.

Sobion said: “We have that attraction too, we have that star power but I feel like we can’t do a clash; we have to do something innovative.”

According to Sobion, Jamaican entertainment culture, historically, has always been a “clash culture” where one artiste would be pitted against another. He noted that T&T is different in that the culture is one about happiness and unity rather than opposition.

Sobion said that there are also a lot of international influencers who come to T&T Carnival, who would be interested in seeing something that is showcasing the country’s culture.

He remarked: “You could look at what your Caribbean counter part is doing and you can say yes, good job Jamaica, but I think that if we are going to embark on an experience like that or a showcasing or a highlight, we have to think a little more in terms of – what is really going to create that sort of global attraction.”

The BG, subsequently wrote the Jamaican Tourist Board for comment – it asked two questions:

1. How much of Jamaica’s tourism marketing and advertising is geared towards the promotion of the local entertainment culture? (ie. Bob Marley and others.)

2. As more artistes emerged from Jamaica and gained global prominence was there an up-tick in tourist arrivals?

The Tourist board said that it “considers culture an integral part of our persona and our tourism product.”

It noted however, that entertainment is only one element of its culture which features in its marketing tool kit. The Board said that food is another important aspect of its culture which is featured.

It noted: “It would be difficult to distil the portion of the marketing budget aimed at promoting entertainment. While we also recognize that our musical artiste continue to draw attention to the destination, there is currently no link between emerging artists and tourism arrivals.”

According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Jamaica saw an 8.5 per cent increase in tourist visits in 2019, where 2.68 million visitors came to the island. Although its cruise ship passenger arrivals declined by 15.9 per cent, the island still saw 1.55 million of those types of guests.

This is compared to the 388,576 visitors that came to T&T in 2019 and its 91,423 cruise passenger visits.

Meanwhile, Parris said that the recent battle was very effective as a marketing tool for the Caribbean island.

She said: “Has this battle caused many overseas to regain an interest in Jamaica? I think that it certainly has.”

Parris indicated that prior to the Beenie & Bounty clash, the Verzuz TV platform had 500k followers, according to reports in the media, within a day or two after the, the platform grew to 1.1 million followers.

While she noted that during the battle, the viewership at its peak was around half of a million people from all over the globe, Parris said that “these numbers of course cannot speak to persons like myself who would have watched the battle from one cell phone with a few persons looking on.”

The aforementioned numbers alone, according to Parris, point to not only the deep interest in Dancehall music and the brand, Jamaica.

Parris continued: “I’ve also read that Dancehall artiste Shaggy has kick -started a petition for Beenie & Bounty to have their United States visas reinstated from the view point that their ability to travel to perform is essential to the economic growth of Jamaica.”

Regarding the marketing of local entertainment and artistes outside of T&T Carnival, Sobion said it is critical to tourism.

Although T&T Carnival attracts a massive amount of tourists, the difficulty is that this pulling attraction revolves around one particular season. Whereas, the recent showcase of Jamaican culture in the online clash can potentially draw visitors to the country regardless of the time or season.

Sobion agreed that finding events and promoting entertainment outside of the Carnival season is important in breaking out of attracting the majority of the nation’s tourists for only one season.

He said: “T&T needs to understand how important the culture is to the world.” Sobion highlighted that T&T Carnival is a festival of global proportions and is recognised as one of the best “festivals of the world. He discussed, however, that the country has not gone beyond that.

“It is like, Carnival is all that we could do, and there’s nothing else,” quipped Sobion. He said: “Let’s just say for the year of T&T, you need to look at ways of uplifting the culture through different means so that they would always have a reason to come T&T.”

Sobion noted that the creation of events outside of Carnival Monday and Tuesday would have given patrons of the festival options, as he noted that the cost of participating in the two day event is high. He added that hotels are normally packed to capacity as well.

The event strategist articulated: “We need to find new ways of getting people here.”