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Is end of all-inclusives near?

Letters to the Editor
Newsday Soca superstars Machel Montano and Destra Garcia perform at Fete with the Saints. - JORDON BRIGGS
Soca superstars Machel Montano and Destra Garcia perform at Fete with the Saints. - JORDON BRIGGS


LET ME state from the outset that given their expertise in the field, and their easier access to relevant information, there are several people, like fete promoters and entertainment journalists, who would be better able to answer the headline question than me. However, given my (self-professed) fame as the ultimate fete connoisseur (I jokingly tell my friends Machel’s 2012 hit Mr Fete was an ode to me), I believe I can make a reasonable fist of commenting on this issue. So here goes.

For some time my younger friends (and some of my peers) have been telling me the demise of all-inclusive Carnival fetes is imminent. Probably because it is my favourite fete genre, I held a contrary view. I was adamant that this type of fete would be a fixture on the Carnival feting calendar for at least the next couple decades.

Recent developments have, however, forced me to rethink my position. It started this year when one of the early adopters (to use the marketing terminology) of this type of fete, Bishop’s High School, Port of Spain (Old Hilarians), switched from an all-inclusive fete to a food-inclusive cooler fete. However, what really made me sit up and take notice was when the innovator (staying with the marketing terminology) of this genre, The University of the West Indies (UWI), took the decision to abandon the long-standing and iconic UWI Fete in 2024.

Those who have flirted with the study of marketing would be familiar with the concept of the product life cycle, whereby all products go through five stages: introduction, growth, maturity, decline, and abandonment. In my opinion different genres of Carnival fetes are in fact products, as such they are subject to these life-cycle stages. This is why some genres, which those of us old enough to know, are no longer in existence.

For instance, the fetes, which I euphemistically refer to as ONFs (actually called Old N-word Fetes), which were the in-thing in my youth have been abandoned for over a decade now in some cases. Indeed, the great bard Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez) nostalgically cited some of the more popular of these fetes in his 2023 Road March when he spoke about where he came from (Brass Festival, Customs, Flour Mills, WASA, Fire and Licensing). Sadly, although these were fetes where “we did not go for no stand-up,” all have disappeared from the feting landscape (although Fire fete made a feeble attempt at a return this year).

Following these, we had the advent of the so-called concept fetes, including but not limited to Mad Hatters Ball, Eyes Wide Shut, Glow, Girl Power, and the originator (I think) and longest running of them all, Insomnia. All these eventually went the way of the ONFs and departed from the annual fete calendar. Before I proceed let me clarify that this was not a linear progression, whereby one genre seamlessly replaced the other, since the genres initially overlapped with the later version becoming more dominant over time.

Now to the all-inclusive fetes. I must reiterate that my preference for this genre initially blinded me to the reality that it is now in the decline phase of its life cycle. In retrospect, however, I realise that several of the more popular of these fetes that I religiously attended no longer exist. Apart from UWI and Old Hillarians, there is BP/Amoco (incredibly I paid $50 to attend this fete in the earlies), IT McLeod, Carec (former president Max Richards’s fete after he left UWI), Amnesia, AS Bryden, and Central Bank, among others. The abandonment of these fetes may be due to a variety of reasons, some unique to the specific promoters. However, delving into these reasons is beyond the scope of this commentary.

While we still have some all-inclusive fetes around, I think they may not survive for long unless they are prepared to meet the gold, nay platinum standard offered by the current top two in the opinion of most fete aficionados, Fete with the Saints (CIC fete) and Hyatt Lime.

At present the most popular choice of fete seems to be the ubiquitous cooler fete in its various guises. Though it is still not my preferred genre (simply because I like to enter a fete with my two long arms swinging), my personal favourite of this type of fete is the food-inclusive cooler fete, whereby you walk with your drinks and the promoter provides food.

Based on my 2023 experience at two such fetes, Old Hilarians and Kairi People’s Runaway at Salybia, where the food offering was far superior to that of several of the all-inclusive fetes, for less than half the ticket price, I finally understood what my friends meant when they said the days of all-inclusive fetes are numbered.

Despite this I am still happy that my top three all-inclusive fetes, Fete with the Saints, Hyatt Lime and Phucket, will be around in 2024, and hopefully for some time to come.