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Calabar Carnival, a Tool for Tourism Development and Economic Growth

Carnivals constitute one of the main motivations in the choice of tourist destination worldwide. Carnivals generate important flows for an economy, constitute a vector of regional promotion and also a huge economic advantage for a country.

Carnival is a street festival which brings communities together in celebration, largely on the back of voluntary participation – the archetypal big society showcase.

Carnival’s community spirit is the result of the cumulative efforts of many talented artists -musicians, and sound engineers. Carnival arts are now recognized by the Arts Council as a “combined art”: one that, at its best, brings together many art forms and traditions in new innovative production and performance  Agnes  (2004-38)

Nevertheless, the forces of culture co modification, cultural synchronization and modernization have been shaping, nay, disfiguring traditional cultural events staged in Africa. In a bid to modernize and render local cultures more appealing to a western/westernized public of tourists, many African states – particularly their tourism planners – have developed the tendency of copying and superimposing foreign/western concepts to local cultural displays. However, Calabar Carnival is different breed; the carnival is unique in a way that it holistically promotes the culture of Calabar people.

An average Calabar man or woman does not joke with the Calabar Carnival, because it is the opportunity they have to celebrate, express and activate the spirit of tradition, friendliness and unification irrespective of gender, social status, religious or political affiliations

Calabar Carnival is an annual event, held in Cross River State Nigeria. The carnival holds every December and was declared by the then governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke as an activity to mark Christmas celebration yearly.

He said his vision for creating the festival was to make Cross-River a home of tourism and hospitality in Nigeria and Africa. The quality of the festival has grown over the years making it Nigeria’s biggest carnival and an internationally recognized festival.

It used to be a month-long event that began on the 1st of December, until the former governor of the state, Benedict Ayade reduced it to two weeks after he was elected. During the 2017 carnival, Former governor Benedict Ayade said in his speech that the carnival is to showcase Africa as the richest continent and a blessed place where the young ones should be proud to belong.

The carnival has always been entertaining and colourful as different competitions take place and huge cash prizes are won. Calabar which is also known by the name Canaan City is a city in south-eastern Nigeria. Calabar is actually the capital city of Cross River State. Calabar sits adjacent to the Calabar and Great Kwa Rivers and Fallsas well as the creeks of the Cross River.

The new Managing Director of Cross River State Tourism Bureau, Ojoi Ekpenyong, disclosed this while briefing journalists in Calabar on the Bureau’s short-term plan to revitalize the tourism industry.

He noted that this would ensure that the state tourism facilities are visitor-ready for the forthcoming 32-days Festival, especially the 2023 edition of Carnival Calabar.

Ekpenyong said the state Tourism Bureau would partner other stakeholders in Calabar and other local festivals to optimize them as focal points for tourism growth, with private sector involvement to enhance the events.

He said: “We will actively explore opportunities for Public-Private Partnerships to develop and manage various tourism projects, in collaboration with the private sector, while engaging in short-term campaigns targeting regional and national tourists, featuring special promotions and discounts.

“A renewed focus on promoting and enhancing existing tourism attractions across the state will be a central component of the plan. We are also going to appoint local influencers and celebrities as tourism ambassadors to promote Cross River State.”

People from all walks of life are expected to participate in the Carnival. At the 2022 edition, no fewer than 10 countries from Africa and Europe participated in the Carnival. It was glamorous and a site to behold.

The carnival has been decribed by many stakeholders as a veritable tool for tourist attraction, cultural appreciation and also used for attracting foreign investors, for sustainable development and national transformation.

SOURCE: The Nation

IMAGE: Calabar festivals

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