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A Samaroo’s Limited employee displays a Midnight Robber hat at the store in San Fernando yesterday.

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Usually, the streets would be buzzing for yesterday’s Carnival Friday with after-work limes reaching the pavements as partygoers shop for outfits for the weekend fetes and hotels being booked up.

However, although the Government has hosted Taste of Carnival, a scaled-down version of the annual celebrations, hotel and guest house occupancy remains 40-50 per cent lower than pre-pandemic times.

Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association president Hassel Thom said yesterday that occupancy was 50-60 per cent lower for corresponding Carnival periods before the pandemic hit in 2020.

Thom told Guardian Media that the industry continued to suffer but given the rising levels in vaccination and operating protocols, he said Carnival 2023 seems a better prospect.

“Based on how we see we are going and how we are now at a much better level of vaccination than we were before, once we continue to ensure that there are protocols in place for persons coming into the country, not necessarily paying for PCRs and those things, but people are coming in vaccinated, we are transitioning from a pandemic into maybe an endemic state. I see Carnival 2023 being a viable option,” Thom said.

Carnival is a lucrative period for the tourism industry. Thom said it was one of the tools available to promote tourism on the island. He said it was not about people coming to see the sites but to have a unique experience.

Carnival is also one of the highest-earning periods for hotels. According to a 2018 Association of Caribbean States report, T&T Carnival exceeds on average US$100 million per year with significant economic activity in the entertainment, media, hospitality and retail sectors. One researcher posted that Carnival 2020 saw visitors spending an estimated $458 million, the highest since 2013.

Thom said it was a period when people booked all rooms in Trinidad hotels, which led to the emergence of Air BnB on the island.

Meanwhile, it was a Carnival Friday to forget at Samaroo’s Limited. Sales at the El Soccoro and San Fernando outlets would usually be high as costume makers, feters and artistes would get supplies ahead of Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

But yesterday, the stores were quiet. Managing director Steve Samaroo said his company did not get sufficient notice of a Taste of Carnival. Samaroo said the only event the company benefited from was the Kings and Queens of Carnival event, which took place on Thursday.

“Without a parade, we are still in problems. Whatever we get, we appreciate it, but it is nothing. It is a drop in the bucket,” Samaroo said.

As for the day-to-day business, sales remain very sporadic.

During the pandemic, business is terrible and without Carnival, Samaroo said the company is struggling. It even has stock remaining from Carnival 2020. The business survives on the sale of pool equipment.

He said what the Carnival stakeholders require now is a clear announcement from the Government that it would host a full-fledged Carnival 2023 so they can start planning.

“I mean, the materials do not drop from the sky. You know there are supply chain problems. There are shipping problems. There are all kinds of problems. Now with oil prices going up with the war, it is probably going to escalate even more.”

Samaroo said he does not plan to raise prices. He said it takes eight to 12 weeks to get raw materials from China and if importers do not get advance notice of Carnival 2023, they would not be able to plan.

He said those in authority needed to encourage stakeholders by announcing a celebration with a parade of the bands.