Nor did I, until I started my research. However, there are over 100 Caribbean carnivals that held each year, around the world. Even through my extensive research, I wonder, if I missed any carnivals out and I am sure I have. Needless to say, I have counted approximately 110 live carnivals and identified a further 16 carnivals which have either been cancelled, not in existence, merged or renamed. The mas band count is significantly higher and have so far identified over 770 mas bands globally and counting. It is a slow, complex journey into the world wide web, weaving through the vast myriad of outdated social media information, non-existant mas camps, or unclaimed websites simply abandoned to the hosts. I am pretty sure, that this is not the final exhaustive list, as the phenomena of the Caribbean carnival and the need to play mas is growing and the demand for bands offering the ranges to suit are equal in growth.
Why the carnival phenomena?….
…As once you experience that soca vibe, you just can’t go back. It’s addictive, almost like drugs, you crave for that next soca fix. Then comes the nervous build-up, setting the expectation for that ultimate excitement; which sends you wild, when it reaches. You can literally lose your mind! Finally, there’s the comedown known as ‘Carnival Tabanca’, that is whenever a major or local carnival ends and you can’t deal with anything until that next soca high.
Social media has got to take some credit also. For it has allowed us experiences beyond our realms and the simplicity that allows us, to connect with the love of soca and carnivals. Now, because of social media, we can go to Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and the many other platforms, to search for videos and pictures of any carnival anywhere in the world or connect with people, with instant results. Fundamentally, it has allowed carnivals to grow, just look at the Grenada tourism statistic chart below as an example of tourism growth.
Why does Trinidad carnival rule?
Quite simply, Trinidad carnival roots are embedded in deep history, with government support to make it the best show on the earth. Trinidad carnival, hands down is the best Caribbean carnival, however, unlike most other carnivals, it is fortunately funded by the lottery, as well as other major sponsorships every year. According to Guardian TT, (6 Jan 2018) four million of lottery-funded money was attributed to the carnival this year, an actual 50% cut from last year funding. According to research for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC.org, 2017) Tourism heavily contributes into Trinidad’s GDP and in 2016, ‘Travel & Tourism generated US$7.6 trillion (10.2% of global GDP) and 292 million jobs in 2016, equivalent to 1 in 10 jobs in the global economy.
It certainly does not help that it is the most promoted Caribbean carnival, so even if you have not attended a carnival, you would have heard of and been encouraged to go to Trinidad.
…but, there are other carnivals!
Think about this. In February alone there are approximately 10 Caribbean carnivals on at the same time as Trinidad. Trinidad as the messiah of carnivals is heralded as the most attractive, the place to be.
However, there are other carnivals (check the word cloud), over a hundred of them and many of them I am sure are just as good and by far, a cheaper alternative to Trinidad carnival. There are other smaller but popular destinations such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Berlin, Bahamas ‘Junkanoo’ and France. With Jamaica Bachannal, Vincy Mas and Grenada SpiceMas hot on the heels of Trinidad, for the ultimate carnival experience. Using Grenada as an example of growth, data taken from Trading Economics (Feb 2018) shows that Grenada has seen an unprecedented rise in visits since 2014. Whilst, I cannot factually state that the rise is attributed to the carnival, I would certainly bet on it!
Grenada tourism statistics
Information courtesy of https://tradingeconomics.com/grenada/international-tourism-number-of-arrivals-wb-data.html
*Caribbean Carnival Statistics
Trinidad Arrivals 2014 – 2016 by month
It is very interesting to note that, whilst, Trinidad may be billed as ‘the carnival of the year’, the numbers declined for 2016 in terms of the February 2016 arrivals into Trinidad.
Information courtesy of http://www.tourism.gov.tt/Resources/Statistics/Monthly-Air-Arrivals
So lets now have a look at the breakdown of the countries that attended Trinidad carnival in 2016. As you will see from the data, below, the Americans by far rank the highest, in terms of numbers coming into Trinidad for the carnival. This is closely followed by the UK, however, it is worth noting the range of countries that visit and that are interested in coming to Trinidad.
Information courtesy of http://cso.gov.tt/statistics/
….and the award for the continent that hosts the most carnivals….
Trinidad may also be billed as the biggest but, as of 2018, North America as a continent hosts the largest number of Caribbean Carnivals. As you can imagine the USA, with its huge population alone, boasts hosting over 38 Caribbean carnivals! The Caribbean as a collective comes real close with 37 carnivals.
The next highest concentration of carnivals is within Europe; the UK alone hosts 18 annual Caribbean carnivals, including our infamous, Notting Hill Carnival. Whilst, these carnival figures are impressive and before you can say “let me book my next flight to the Cayman Islands“, funding can be low for Caribbean carnivals, with communities constantly fighting the negative impact of associated violence and battling over the numerous calls for the carnivals to be stopped, lest not even mentioned the media vultures or the beloved Metropolitan Police carnival crime stats (the only stats which they always manage to produce in a few hours). Asia has not quite aspired to that Caribbean feeling yet judging by the low carnival host numbers, but perhaps we have not discovered all the places. However, the Asakusa carnival in Japan is one that I am told to visit. It’s not the usual Caribbean carnival and does not incorporate the same freestyling stance that our Caribbean carnivals take, but definitively a carnival to attend for the experience alone.
Playing mas is an expensive hobby
I had written an article on the true costs of playing mas and as a note, fetting or even playing mas can indeed be expensive, especially if you are anything like me and average attending around 6 carnivals each year. Also, beware of the ‘ultra premium’ band packages, they are designed for those that can afford it, usually from $800 US dollars upwards.
Support your local carnival
The solution? Suffice to say, all our Caribbean carnivals need our support, not just one island. So make plans to visit carnivals not experienced yet and don’t forget to check out and support your own local carnivals. All 110 Caribbean Carnivals come but once a year, so let’s spend our time trying to support and to get them all.
I hate the thought, but there is life after carnival, plus you got to work to pay for the next trip!
*Caribbean Statistics: of course, these figures are not wholly accurate but having spent time researching this data it really will be an ever-changing statistic.