Categorized | Editorial, Local, News

The lack of promotion of festival and the barrels hurt the economy

Editorial – January 15- 22, 2016 :

It is of course too early to confirm what we continue to hear most recently, year after year from our merchants, they who are the first to feel and tell “things really bad, things really slow”.

We started taking note of the complaints especially from 2012 when not only merchants but vendors complained their disappointment at their sales during and at the height of the festival season.

At Christmas time, most of the visitors to Montserrat are returning, or rather ,visiting Montserratians from the UK, especially those who were evacuees from Montserrat because of the volcanic crisis which began in 1995. The spending power of most of those visitors therefore at Festival, is far less than pre-volcanic crisis. The situation is exacerbated when the exchange rate falls close to or below the EC$4.00 mark when sterling is cashed. In December 2012 the rate was much friendlier and there were times when the UK visitor would get up to and above $4.50 for his pound.

In January 2015 last year it hovered just around $4.00 but this year it kept falling earlier in the year from around $4.10 to less than $3.70. The result was, visitors kept their sterling notes and took them back to the UK, without spending much.

But merchants had another complaint which they attribute to the drop in their expectations. They complain bitterly and say it is unfair to have served their customers throughout the year to have the huge number of barrels that are brought in to Montserrat reducing their sale expectations considerably.

It was bad enough in 2012, but one claim is that the number of barrels brought in this year doubled that of 2012 when it was said to be very high. It is not surprising that it was after the 50th Festival Anniversary that we began noticing the all-round complaints were growing.

A little deeper thought and one realizes that along with the currency exchange rate dipping below the $4.00 mark when it used to be higher than $4.50 at times, the barrel imports which are brought at reduced duty rates, how the economy suffers.

Then there is especially the overall decline and near death of the economy. It used to be that Montserrat buzzed at Christmas time when in addition to the festive culture of sharing and giving the numbers of visitors were high. They were usually mostly from North America, with well-to-do tourists of families and friends visiting; the Montserratians were mostly better endowed, coming not to receive (the festivities to be enjoyed) but to add to the wealth of the island.

Thirty (20-30) years ago the year-end festival was the time everyone especially those who had a bad year in their revenue got some reprieve. Everything was geared to be at its best, all the way down to the newly repaired and painted homes, showing off the richness of our culture. Ask the question, why do we have Festival at Christmas?

The preparations were to provide fun, while those in business positions prepared to reap the benefits of the well-ordered preparations. The volunteers to put on the festive shows and events used every available media to get the word out to the world, that Montserrat was the place to be from December 15 to January 1-15 for friendliness, shows and festivities.

There is much behind that statement of “fit for purpose”, that we hope to have Her Excellency clarify. Never do you hear anymore of anything being done to woo our neighbours, and the world to join the people of Montserrat for a few days of true friendliness and fun, and now even more attractions, not to mention the still natural tranquility and beauty it breathes.

Until the aim is to make the ultimate goal of Festivals to be like festivals all over the world, when visitors leave contented and people on the ground can count their profits at the end of it all, the decline and the setback the economy experiences at that time of year will continue. The attitudes must change; the discussions must make sense with that goal very clear.

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Editorial – January 15- 22, 2016 :

It is of course too early to confirm what we continue to hear most recently, year after year from our merchants, they who are the first to feel and tell “things really bad, things really slow”.

We started taking note of the complaints especially from 2012 when not only merchants but vendors complained their disappointment at their sales during and at the height of the festival season.

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At Christmas time, most of the visitors to Montserrat are returning, or rather ,visiting Montserratians from the UK, especially those who were evacuees from Montserrat because of the volcanic crisis which began in 1995. The spending power of most of those visitors therefore at Festival, is far less than pre-volcanic crisis. The situation is exacerbated when the exchange rate falls close to or below the EC$4.00 mark when sterling is cashed. In December 2012 the rate was much friendlier and there were times when the UK visitor would get up to and above $4.50 for his pound.

In January 2015 last year it hovered just around $4.00 but this year it kept falling earlier in the year from around $4.10 to less than $3.70. The result was, visitors kept their sterling notes and took them back to the UK, without spending much.

But merchants had another complaint which they attribute to the drop in their expectations. They complain bitterly and say it is unfair to have served their customers throughout the year to have the huge number of barrels that are brought in to Montserrat reducing their sale expectations considerably.

It was bad enough in 2012, but one claim is that the number of barrels brought in this year doubled that of 2012 when it was said to be very high. It is not surprising that it was after the 50th Festival Anniversary that we began noticing the all-round complaints were growing.

A little deeper thought and one realizes that along with the currency exchange rate dipping below the $4.00 mark when it used to be higher than $4.50 at times, the barrel imports which are brought at reduced duty rates, how the economy suffers.

Then there is especially the overall decline and near death of the economy. It used to be that Montserrat buzzed at Christmas time when in addition to the festive culture of sharing and giving the numbers of visitors were high. They were usually mostly from North America, with well-to-do tourists of families and friends visiting; the Montserratians were mostly better endowed, coming not to receive (the festivities to be enjoyed) but to add to the wealth of the island.

Thirty (20-30) years ago the year-end festival was the time everyone especially those who had a bad year in their revenue got some reprieve. Everything was geared to be at its best, all the way down to the newly repaired and painted homes, showing off the richness of our culture. Ask the question, why do we have Festival at Christmas?

The preparations were to provide fun, while those in business positions prepared to reap the benefits of the well-ordered preparations. The volunteers to put on the festive shows and events used every available media to get the word out to the world, that Montserrat was the place to be from December 15 to January 1-15 for friendliness, shows and festivities.

There is much behind that statement of “fit for purpose”, that we hope to have Her Excellency clarify. Never do you hear anymore of anything being done to woo our neighbours, and the world to join the people of Montserrat for a few days of true friendliness and fun, and now even more attractions, not to mention the still natural tranquility and beauty it breathes.

Until the aim is to make the ultimate goal of Festivals to be like festivals all over the world, when visitors leave contented and people on the ground can count their profits at the end of it all, the decline and the setback the economy experiences at that time of year will continue. The attitudes must change; the discussions must make sense with that goal very clear.