TRINIDAD – Crime, US ban hurting Carnival arrivals

PORT OF SPAIN –– Concerns about crime and US immigration are affecting Carnival 2017 as some mas bands are reporting that registration has been affected.

“It appears Carnival has taken a hit because of this as a number of bands have reported lower registration numbers so far for this year, including from overseas customers,” National Carnival Development Foundation (NCDF) chairman Mahindra Satram Maharaj told the T&T Guardian.

NCDF represents a number of large and small bands.

Maharaj said concerns have arisen due to campaign trail promises by the new US administration regarding deportation of undocumented people from the US. This was heightened by last weekend’s US visa ban on seven Middle East and African countries.

Last week, Culture Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly confirmed that there had been declining or very stagnant tourist arrivals and dwindling audiences at Carnival events. Maharaj subsequently said bands have reported very, very slow registration, but added that band leaders are hoping for the usual rush in the last week before Carnival.

“A key deterrent to registration is the crime situation, particularly the bizarre types of crimes being seen in T&T. There have also been reports from members that some persons in the Diaspora — where we have a lot of masqueraders — have been reluctant to participate this year since they are uncertain about US immigration policies,” he said.

“We have about 40,000 people who normally come to T&T for Carnival. One or two bands have said their customers aren’t affected, but others have said they are. However, one band has said it’s getting many overseas customers.”

Lorraine Pouchet, of the T&T Tour Operators Association, said the US visa ban has prompted investigations on the number of people who may have booked Carnival costumes and paid for hotel rooms but cannot come due to fears about returning to the US.

T&T Hotel and Tourism Association president Hassel Thom said: “Since the US visas ban began last weekend, it will also trigger fear in the minds of those in the Diaspora, so we must ascertain how it will affect Carnival and we’re doing that research with stakeholders now.”

Other industry sources said fears in the Diaspora about difficulties to return home after Carnival were also fuelled by last weekend’s comments by MSNBC counter terrorism expert Malcom Nance who claimed T&T, the Bahamas and Brazil had more “terrorists” than the seven predominantly Muslim states the visa ban applies to. There are concerns that Trinidad & Tobago nationals returning to the US might be red-flagged because of that.

Luis Hart, of mas band Hart’s, said yesterday registration with the band is normal so far and it is hard to say at this point if it will be affected by US immigration issues.

“We’re monitoring it,” he said.

The Hyatt Regency, as well as some guesthouses around Port of Spain—Alicia’s, Monique’s, Sundeck Suites — reported full Carnival bookings. Par-May-La’s Inn reported a couple cancellations, as did Hotel Normandie.

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