Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
While shying away from making a projection as to how much money he expects to flow into the local economy from the 2013 staging of the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, businessman Walter Elmore, the CEO of Art of Music Productions, the organiser of the event, says the impact will be significant.
"There are so many spin-off benefits from the festival," Elmore told Western Focus. "You have ground transportation, airline, food and the hospitality industry. The economic benefits are enormous … . Everyone has to eat, they have to buy gas and so on. Different parts of the economy benefit in different ways."
Last year's event, which was headlined by superstar Celine Dion, attracted some 30,000 fans over the three nights. Of that number, some 10,000 were overseas visitors, who flew into the island for the event.
Using last year's scenario, which was based on the formula that visitors were paying between US$300-$500 per night for hotel rooms in addition to airfare, ground transportation, food and tickets to the festival, it is expected that hundreds of millions of dollars will flow into the nation's coffers this year.
It is no secret that over the years the Jazz & Blues season has been a major financial boom for villa, hotel and guesthouse operators, as they are usually fully booked for the festival. In addition, restaurants, cook-shops and cafés generally get unprecedented patronage. The situation is usually similar for clothing stores, beauty salons and countless other businesses.
While host parish Trelawny gets much of the spin-off benefits, neighbouring parishes such as St James and St Ann, which offer the vast majority of the hotel rooms, also generated significant earnings.
"Jazz & Blues has always had a positive impact on Trelawny overall," said Richard Bourke, president of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "The truth of the matter is that there are not many hotel rooms available at present, but the traffic flow does present opportunities."
With a star-studded line-up inclusive of the likes of Mary J. Blige, Dionne Warwick, John Legend, Monica, Michael Bolton, the Third World Band, Arturo Tappin, Roots Underground, music lovers are poised for a musical blast.
While traffic management has been an area of concern over the years, Elmore and his team seem somewhat reluctant to implement the compulsory shuttle service, which was proposed last year after the nightmarish experience some patrons had.
In fact, in the aftermath of last year's event, Elmore intimated that a compulsory shuttle system would be considered for 2013. The proposal was that Richmond Estate in St Ann and the Dump-Up Beach in Montego Bay would be used as satellite parking sites from which patrons would be transported to the venue.
However, with that plan not coming to fruition, traffic management is set to remain in the hands of the police, who were clearly overwhelmed last year.
In terms of the general impact of the festival, Elmore is convinced that this year's package will be quite appealing to patrons, who have seemingly become accustomed to the jazz and blues bug at this time each year.
"We have been doing this stuff for 17 years, and we have tried to present a package with artistes that are good and who Jamaica loves; acts whose music appeal to a broad cross section of society both local and international," Elmore said.