Preliminary results – St. Maarten Carnival research shows higher attendance

POSTED: 07/8/13 12:35 PM

St. Maarten – Preliminary findings of the market research and economic study commissioned by the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) show that attendance to all carnival events and hotel occupancy was on average higher across the board in 2013 than previous years.

To have a tool with which it could better plan for and structure carnival, the SCDF for the first time commissioned the study which was conducted by the company St. Maarten to The World. The same company also formulated and partly executed the marketing plan for Carnival 2013.

Prior to an increase in marketing subsidy granted by former Minister of Tourism Franklin Meyers, the SCDF had not been given the tools (financial) to conduct more in depth research into the true market potential to St. Maarten. The marketing value of St. Maarten Carnival was therefore set by the offers of sponsors and those interested in investing.

In the nature of capitalism, this would result in companies and organizations receiving an immense amount of exposure through carnival sponsorship for less than the value of the potential product received. According to President of the SCDF Mike Granger, carnival has been underpriced in many ways for a very long time.

To correct this, Granger explained, market research was conducted throughout Carnival 2013 to outline the following market indicators: Carnival Village attendance, booth holders performance and income, carnival parade bystanders and participants (amounts), economic benefits to stores in Philipsburg, effect on occupancy during carnival at hotel and accommodations in Philipsburg and Maho.

A snapshot of figures in the preliminary report shows that approximately 85, 400 people attended all carnival events on the Carnival 2013 schedule. Of this amount, 16 percent were visitors. SCDF nights (local shows) drew approximately 1,500 people per show, promoter nights (international nights) drew approximately 5825 people per show and free nights (parades etc.) drew approximately 8,850 people to Carnival Village.

As for carnival’s online presence, the live streaming of carnival events drew 286,860 unique online viewers. This amount could have been higher if promoters had allowed streaming of their nights. The SCDF intends to address this for carnival 2014. The YouTube views of Carnival videos came in at 63,602 views.

Preliminary occupancy figures show 92 percent occupancy for the hotel and lodging properties in the general Philipsburg area for the carnival period. Sonesta Maho, a property that has not serious carnival business in the past considering the carnival traveller tend to choose smaller properties, sold 32 carnival packages with occupancy of 64 percent for the period. Other occupancy figures are still being compiled.

St. Maarten to the World and its team of people also conducted surveys on spending habits in Carnival Village, types of shows people want to see, gender, age etc.

Granger said once the report is compiled and completed, it will be presented to parliament, the Council of Ministers and the general public. SCDF’s largest sponsors will also be presented with the report. The report will also outline the methods used for data gathering and compilation. “We presented the plan prior to carnival to parliament, Council of Ministers, the public and our sponsors. So now we’ll simply show the results,” Granger said.

“Preliminary results basically confirm what the SCDF has known for years; that carnival is a major economic generator for St. Maarten and it is, by far, the largest annual event (in terms of convergence of people and finances) on St. Maarten. It appears that our new marketing efforts, including the Road to Carnival events, live internet streaming and the new marketing plan that was executed for 2013 carnival has had a positive effect on carnival numbers for 2013.

“Credit must also be given to the participation of many troupes in the parade of 2013 and also the efforts of promoters in producing and marketing attractive nights for carnival,” Granger said.

He also extended high praise to the director and team of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau with whom SCDF has established a close working relationship. SCDF has appointed a member of the Tourist Bureau team as an extraordinary board member to liaise between the two entities specifically for carnival marketing.

Carnival will be celebrating 45 years in 2014.


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