SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Citing health & 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 & Tobacco N.V. (ILTT) and TelEm Group, have informed that they are postponing their support for the staging of Carnival 2021.
In a jointly signed letter to SCDF President, Mr. Alston Lourens late Friday, the three sponsors informed of a meeting that took place on Thursday, January 21, 2021, to come to their decision.
All expressed concern that the Carnival organizers 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,” writes the three main sponsors in their letter to the SCDF President.
The sponsors also note the “scant information presented to us and most importantly 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.”
In their letter, the sponsors refer 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 write 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 to read:
“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.
Furthermore, and most importantly, we 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 our ability to address many hardships among the broader community.”
The letter goes on to advise the carnival organizers how best to proceed, with the possibility of postponing Carnival to a later date in the year when more guarantees for 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 assert 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, stating:
“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 the distinct agreements between SCDF and our respective business organizations, which include the ongoing exclusivity and non-compete clauses.”
The sponsors write 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 center-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 3rd/ 4th quarter of the year barring any unforeseen further developments with the COVID-19 pandemic,” states the three sponsors in a final word to SCDF.