Jamaicans spending big to head to Trinidad Carnival
For many Jamaicans, the mesmerising pull of soca music is undeniable. It is this hypnotic force that draws them more than 1,000 miles across the Caribbean Sea to revel in the beats, melodies, and excitement that comes with carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, annually.
"For Jamaicans, who are ardent soca fans, Trinidad Carnival is definitely a bucket list item," said Kandi King, director of Xaymaca International.
"Plus, in this era of social media many persons are viewing the photos on Instagram and Facebook. It looks exciting and so they want to experience it for themselves," added King as she noted that making this a reality comes with a hefty price tag.
King noted that accommod-ation, costume, airline flight and ground transportation are only some of the expenses that one can anticipate, if they want to thoroughly enjoy carnival in Trinidad.
"It could cost you upwards of US$4,000, especially if you don't have friends, or family, to stay with, because accommodation in Trinidad is very expensive. During carnival season, hotel prices often triple what you would pay in the off-season," she said.
She further noted that a costume costs between US$800 and US$1,400, while accommodation is about US$300 dollars per night. In addition, patrons can expect to spend at least US$100 to US$200 for admission to the various fÍtes.
"For the full experience, most people will want to attend at least five parties while they are there, and that doesn't include food and drinks. Plus, most persons plan to be in Trinidad for at least a week," she related.
The steep price tag attached to carnival has led some patrons to find strategic ways to offset the cost.
Tasha Pryce is one such Jamaican, who said that she has been saving for more than a year to attend the March 4 to 5 event.
"I've been planning this trip for some time, so I saved up about US$2,500 during the past year. I also got a loan to pay for my flight and costume," said Pryce.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I believe it is well worth it. It is no different from persons who take out a loan for vacation or other recreational activities," she reasoned.
For others, budgeting, saving, and planning ahead is the way to go.
Garfield Taylor, who will be attending Trinidad Carnival for the 10th consecutive year, said he uses strategic methods to reduce his costs.
"Over the years, I have made some really good friends and contacts in Trinidad, and so I have developed a barter system, which allows me to stay with friends while I'm there; and when they come to Jamaica, for our carnival, they stay with me. That way, I basically pay zero dollars for accommodation," said Taylor.
Another strategy Taylor uses is to purchase his airline ticket eight months in advance and pay for his costume in two or three instalments.
"That way you don't have to pay for the costume in one big payment. I also buy my fÍte tickets months in advance, as the prices increase the closer it gets to carnival," he said.
With the increase in the number of Jamaicans interested in jumping in Trinidad Carnival, several financial institutions are also offering assistance to those wanting to taste the carnival experience.
JN Bank is offering an all-expenses paid trip for two to Trinidad Carnival through its 'Activate, Spend and Go' credit card promotion. The offer is open to all JN credit cardholders, who spend a minimum of $2,500 weekly on their cards throughout the promotional period.
"We know that attending Trinidad Carnival is a big deal for some Jamaicans. And we also know that the costs associated with the experience are not within the budget for everyone. So JN Bank is providing an opportunity for its loyal members to win the vacation of a lifetime," said Saniah Spencer, chief of marketing at JN Bank.
JN Lifestyle Loan
"Customers can also access a JN Lifestyle loan to cover their travel, carnival costs; or for any other vacation," she informed.
The microfinancing firm, Sprint Financial Services Limited, is among the institutions which are providing loans geared towards carnival. Christopher Barrett, founder and chief executive officer, said that there is an increase in the number of persons accessing these loans in recent years.
"Every year, we receive calls for loans for the Jamaica and Trinidad carnivals. And persons can borrow up to $500,000 to fund their carnival expenses," said Barrett.