~ Community health and safety of paramount concern ~
PHILIPSBURG–Citing health and safety concerns and a lack of prior information from the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF), three of the event’s main sponsors Motorworld, International Liquor and Tobacco Trading (ILTT) and TelEm Group are withdrawing their support for the staging of Carnival 2021 in April.
This move brings the financial viability of Carnival 2021 into question, as a majority of the money to host the event comes from private sponsorship.
In a jointly signed letter to SCDF president Alston Lourens late Friday, the three sponsors informed him of a meeting they had on Thursday, January 21, to come to their decision.
All expressed concern that the Carnival organisers intend to press ahead with St. Maarten’s premier touristic event despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on St. Maarten and around the world. The three sponsors also expressed “disappointment” in SCDF for not informing them first before having to read about the decision in the media and from third parties.
“Upon careful deliberation and consideration, we are unanimous in our opinion that irrespective of the cultural, tourism and economic benefits motivating your decision, the health and safety of the community must remain of paramount consideration and importance. We therefore jointly agree that we will be postponing our sponsorship of Carnival 2021,” the three main sponsors wrote in their letter to the SCDF President.
On Sunday evening, The Daily Herald spoke to Motorworld managing director Tariq Amjad, who clarified his company’s position about what is meant by “postponing” support. He said that if Carnival is pushed to later in the year, such as August, then sponsorship may be considered. This would give enough time for the effect of the worldwide vaccination programme to be known, he said, adding that safety and health is the top priority.
There is “scant information presented to us and most important [are – Ed.] our serious concerns about the negative aspects that will arise from the staging of such a public event in the height of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic,” the sponsors noted.
In their letter, the sponsors referred to “conflicting opinions in the media between SCDF, government and individual members of Parliament,” also medical professionals and other groups in the community regarding their decision to go ahead with Carnival, and state that these opinions have not helped them to make the case to safely stage Carnival 2021 any clearer.
Addressing the matter of having to make this decision at all, the three sponsors wrote that they are acting out of an “abundance of caution about a possible spike in COVID-19 infections during and following the staging of Carnival.”
The letter goes on: “SCDF can be assured that this is a heart-breaking, but well-considered decision on our part as long-term sponsors of the St. Maarten Carnival. We are aware of the financial consequences that will result; however, we believe our decision is firmly planted in our responsibilities as good corporate citizens who not only care about our brands and products, but also about the wider community we serve. Any loss is not to SCDF and select stakeholders alone. As sponsors, we will also be losing the visibility we have enjoyed being a part of Carnival, as well as numerous branding, community engagement and sales opportunities.”
The sponsors all agreed that providing additional sponsorship, above and beyond the funds already committed, for Carnival at this time, is not of paramount utility as it diminishes their ability to address many hardships among the broader community.
The letter advised the Carnival organisers how best to proceed, with the possibility of postponing Carnival to a later date in the year when more guarantees of health and safety can be given, along with the possibility of a roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine to residents of St. Maarten.
The three main sponsors asserted in their letter that as partners in Carnival they remain committed to the future of this important event for the people of St. Maarten and the celebration of the local culture.
However, there is also the business element that still needs to be addressed with SCDF; the letter states: “While we are unified in coming to our decision as sponsors of this most important SCDF event, we also have our own individual concerns and issues, which will be addressed in greater detail by each of us as it pertains to contractual obligations and mutual agreements with SCDF, whether in further writing or in person. Kindly note that this does not in any way/shape/form renege [on] the distinct agreements between SCDF and our respective business organisations, which include the ongoing exclusivity and non-compete clauses.”
The sponsors wrote that they are now awaiting written confirmation of SCDF’s comprehensive plans for Carnival 2021, which were partly revealed in The Daily Herald and social media on January 22, without the professional courtesy of prior communication to them as the main partnering sponsors, enclosing a copy of the centre-page spread in the process.
“We trust that you fully understand the position we have jointly taken and remain open to further discussions on the possibility of the postponement of the dates of Carnival 2021 to the third/fourth quarter of the year, barring any unforeseen further developments with the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated the three sponsors in a final word to SCDF.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/major-sponsors-withdraw-support-of-carnival-2021