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PAPER

Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival


By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

A recently held LBIWI Seminar for Professionals featured a


presentation by UWI economist Martin Franklin on the economics
of carnival, and response discussion by Todd Gulick of Minshalls
Callaloo Company, that re-highlighted the challenges of
measuring this dynamic, diverse festival phenomenon called
Carnival, and correspondingly, making the measuring count. It
encouraged this writer to explore the issue of measuring the
economic value of carnival against the backdrop of Franklins
recent and much needed study.
Notably, Franklin in his thorough presentation on monetary flows
within the Trinidad Carnival 2008, explains that the economics
of carnival is a relatively backwoods area in the field of
economics. Indeed this is not an entirely strange circumstance
for the cultural industries, for it is nearly 10 years ago that
cultural economist Professor Ruth Towse made the observation
that interest in the economics of cultural industries has recently
sprung to life. She also noted then that . . . even a few years
ago, this was not a well established area of cultural economics,
nor even a widely accepted one 1. Others had earlier suggested
that this mindset among the academe may have attributed to
the general lack of interest in the cultural industries and their
perceived negative image found in cultural policy2.
Franklin supports his congruent observation of the local scenario
by noting four pieces of research the pioneering study of
Thomas3 on the economic worth of carnival; the carnival ecology
1

Towse, Ruth (2000) Cultural Economics, Copyright and the Cultural


Industries. Paper presented at the conference The Long Run at Erasmus
University Rotterdam, February: p. 107-108. It forms part of the Conference
Proceedings and can also be found at http://www.lib.unicorvinus.hu/gt/2000-4/towse.pdf .
2
See for example O. Bennett (1991) British Cultural Policies 1970-1990,
Boekmancahier, Sept.; 293-301; and , and J. OConnor and D. Wynne (1992)
The Great and the Good or High Art on Hard Times, Boekmancahier, March;
105-111.
3
Thomas, Roy (1983) The Economic Impact of Carnival paper presented
at Seminar held at The Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic
Studies, The University of the West Indies.
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PAPER
Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

thesis of Garcia, Donawa et. al.4; and Keith Nurses work on the
export potential of carnival, and the significance of carnival in
the light of globalisation, diaspora, and identity 5 - as the
representative cast of this field of study. Although this list can be
extended to include: the 1996 economic impact study on the
Trinidad Carnival by Keith Nurse and Ralph Henry; the 2001
economic impact study on the Trinidad Carnival for a wider IADB
study on festival tourism in the Caribbean by Nurse; and
research on money flows in Carnival 2005 by this writer 6, the
reality is that there is still much ground to be covered to move
the discourse on the economics of carnival to the forefront.
Franklins presentation certainly seems to suggest that
economic measuring of carnival needs to be done on a more
consistent basis.
Notwithstanding, Franklins detailed economic data not only
illustrates how Carnival 2008 generated some TT$93 million, but
also raises the question of how reliable is economic measuring
Garcia, Gary W., Alfred L. Donawa et. al. (2001) The Organisation of
Carnival and Its Impact and Contribution to the Economy [Carnival Ecology:
the Evolution of a Dynamic Model]. Paper presented at the 12 th Triennial
Symposium on African Art, St. Thomas Virgin Islands, April 25 th-29th.
5
Ralph Henry and Keith Nurse (1996) Mapping and Economic Impact
Assessment of the Entertainment Sector; Keith Nurse (1999) Globalization
And Trinidad Carnival: Diaspora, Hybridity And Identity In Global Culture,
Cultural Studies, Vol. 13, Issue 4 October: p. 661 690.
6
Ralph Henry and Keith Nurse (1996) The Entertainment Sector of Trinidad
and Tobago -Implementing an Export Strategy. Prepared for Industry and
Trade Division, TIDCO: September; and Jo-anne Tull (2005) Money Matters:
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 2005. Paper presented at Symposium
Reflections on Carnival 2005 by the Carnival Institute, April. Also to be
considered here are the economic impact studies on a wider range of
festivals such as: Keith Nurse (2002) "Bringing Culture into Tourism: Festival
Tourism and Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica", Social and Economic Studies.
March, vol. 51, no. 1; Keith Nurse and Jo-anne Tull (2002) Economic Impact
Assessment of Cayman Islands Pirates Week, commissioned by the Pirates
Week Secretariat, Cayman Islands; Keith Nurse and Joanne Tull, The World
Creole Music Festival: An Economic Impact Assessment, Dominica National
Development Commission, and Leah Sahely and Shirley Skeritt (2003) St.
Kitts Music Festival 2003: Economic Impact Assessment and Visitor Profile
July.
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PAPER
Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

for valuing cultural phenomenon such as carnival. This has


always been an off-the-record debate shadowing the field of
research. There is the view that the quantification of Carnival
can do little for its further cultural and artistic development and
is therefore not that necessary. By extension, there is also the
notion that cultural expressions ought not to be subjected to the
rigors of economic measuring and analysis that it is not
possible to place a dollar value on carnival, and to do so can
affect its spirit. And, on the other end of the spectrum is the
view that economic analysis is better suited to more serious
forms of activity in the economy such as manufacturing and
other kinds of industrial activity. These perspectives reflect that
the verdict on the role and significance of economic measuring
of cultural phenomenon such as carnival has not yet been
conclusively determined.
Whilst the debate cannot be adequately resolved in this paper,
there is room however for generating a varied perspective on
the issues by way of this simple question: how can the economic
measuring of carnival count as a respected form of industry
analysis and as an effective means of fostering change in the
carnival industry? This paper contends that the answer rests
fundamentally on understanding the role of quantitative as well
as qualitative measuring in the economic analysis of carnival. To
date, this has not been given significant attention in the
literature on carnival.
The Case for Quantitative Measuring
Measuring is knowing, is the well known guidepost of the
sciences that captures the widely accepted role of quantitative
research and analysis. In essence, quantitative research is, as
researcher Karen Barack describes, . . . based primarily on . . .
counting things7. It is generally regarded as a convenient way
of describing complex data sets8. Hence, a useful feature of
quantitative measuring is its ability to track a broad spectrum of
Karen Barack (2003) Quantitative Research, in Encyclopedia of Leisure
and Outdoor Research by John Michael Jenkins and J. J. J. Pilgrim (eds.).
London: Taylor & Francis: p. 407.
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PAPER
Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

the phenomenon under investigation and utilise the data


derived to make certain general conclusions and causal
explanations about the wider phenomenon. Therefore, in the
context of the economics of carnival, tracking could focus on:
the population of persons participating in carnival activities to
discern the percentage share of the total population engaged in
carnival celebrations and to determine the extent to which
carnival is a nation-wide celebration; the population of persons
purchasing mas costumes to determine the level of consumer
preference for playing mas; the number of arrivals into Trinidad
specifically for carnival to determine whether carnival
constitutes another tourist season in the annual calendar; and
the quantum of revenue accrued by other sectors of the
economy as a result of carnival such as the hospitality sector,
food and beverage, and retail, to determine whether carnival
creates spin-offs in other areas of the economy and so on. These
examples highlight yet another important feature of quantitative
measuring the researcher knows clearly what he/she is looking
for and investigates within those parameters9. It is said,
although not without dispute, that this allows the researcher to
remain objectively focused, which can aid in assuring validity
and reliability of the results attained.
Within the social sciences, questionnaires and surveys represent
one of the most common methods of data collection for
quantitative measuring. Franklins study relies on surveys as the
primary data gathering method based on the quota sampling
approach for investigating small-number groups such as the fete
promoters and tent operators, and multi-stage sampling to track
a sample of 400 persons of the participating population. Given
the difficulty generally encountered in assessing the views of

See for example K. Henderson (1990) Reality Comes Through a Prism:


Method Choices in Leisure Research, Society and Leisure vol. 13 (1), pp.
169-88; and, Mark Finn et. al. (2000) Tourism & Leisure Research Methods:
Data Collection, Analysis and Interpretation. England: Longman.
9
Matthew B. Miles and Michael Huberman (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis.
London: Sage Publications.
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Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

groups within the carnivalscape10, survey approaches present


opportunity for garnering numerical data that can be easily
analysed in a structured format and which can give insight into
issues not previously known about the carnival industry. The
findings could be of further use for conducting comparative
analyses, which can in turn be used in developing trend
analyses. Areas of findings could include: carnival consumer
expenditure according to activities and geographical regions in
Trinidad and Tobago; growth within the carnival industry based
on revenue generation; as well as average money spent by
individuals on various carnival activities. All of these are
captured in the Franklin study.
But it cannot be overlooked that the exclusive use of
quantitative measuring of carnival can have its drawbacks. One
possible challenge is the unsuitability of an otherwise widely
accepted and used data gathering method for the research
focus. In the Franklin study, this challenge manifests in the data
gathering method of telephone surveys for polling consumer
spending on carnival-related activities. Although telephone
surveys can assure some measure of randomness and
presumably can capture a wide cross-section of the population
under study, polling was limited to persons with land line
services. Consequently, the data attained may only represent a
particular demographic grouping of the population, since
younger age demographics as well as those in the lower socioeconomic brackets in Trinidad and Tobago are predominantly
mobile users. Another possible challenge is the over-calculation
of money flows, which can generate numerical outcomes that
contradict what is generally known to be reality. For example,
the Franklin study shows calypso tents as collectively generating
substantial revenue in the millions during the 2008 carnival,
when in fact calypso tents have generally operated at a deficit
Oftentimes, it is difficult to get persons engaged in carnival whether on the
production or consumer side to participate in sit down interviews during
carnival due to inadequate time, lack of interest; and competing interests.
Moreover, the interview approach may render a dynamic array of responses
that may be difficult to collate to arrive at a set of general conclusions.
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PAPER
Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

since the mid-1990s due to depreciating levels of patronage


each year. Also to be considered is the form of interpretation
used by respondents and the level of consistency in
interpretation to certain types of questions on the survey. For
instance, when asked about money spent on mas, some
respondents may give a dollar amount that refers to the
costume only, while others may include in their estimate of
spending on mas other accoutrement such as boots, tattooing
and body painting, hairstyles and makeup. This can throw up
discrepancies in the data unknown to the researcher. And finally,
useful details emerging out of conversation when conducting
surveys cannot be represented numerically and therefore may
be lost to the disadvantage of the study. In sum, exclusive
counting can limit the efficacy of the study.
A Role of Qualitative Measuring?
While the qualitative measuring of carnival is not uncommon 11, it
may be considered unusual ground for economic analysis. As
Bruce L. Berg points out in his most recent edition of Qualitative
Research Methods for the Social Sciences, qualitative
methodologies have not predominated in the social sciences 12.
He suggests that this may be because many regard quantitative
measuring as being more scientific and rational than qualitative
measuring, which tends to focus on measuring . . . the quality
of things using words, images, and descriptions 13. Essentially,
qualitative measures aim at providing complete, detailed
analyses, or as Emerson et. al. define it, rich, thick
descriptions14 of the phenomenon. It investigates not only the
what, where and when, but also the why and how. Qualitative
The analysis of carnival is most often undertaken by the use of qualitative
methodology in particular anthropology and ethnography. This burgeoning
body of literature tends to focus on the aesthetic, socio-cultural, traditional,
festival and performance dimensions of the carnival and seldom has the
economic viability of carnival as its focus.
12
Bruce L. Berg (2007) Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences.
Boston: Person: p. 2.
13
Ibid. p. 4.
14
Robert M. Emerson et. al. (1995) Writing Ethngraphic Fieldnotes. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
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Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

measures also allow for the use of the individuals personal


experiences in the analysis. Although participant observation
(ethnography) is regarded by some as the methodology for
qualitative measuring15, other techniques and methods of data
gathering can be used. These include: historical analysis;
document and textual analysis; semiotic analysis; classification
of themes and interconnections; situational analysis; case study;
interviewing structured and unstructured; observation; focus
groups; and photographic and videographic techniques.
As in the case of quantitative measuring, exclusive use of
qualitative measuring in this context can have its challenges.
Qualitative measuring may become too time-consuming and
demanding, especially given the fast-paced and dynamic nature
of carnival, where things maybe happening too quickly for the
researcher to record. Additionally, the researcher may
experience difficulty immersing with the target group if, for
example, he is not considered socially acceptable by the group.
As a result, the researcher may find it difficult to obtain data
from the target group. Since qualitative measuring tends to
focus on smaller groups for example a focus group of allinclusive jouvert band leaders, the information attained may be
too unique to the group targeted and may not be applicable to
the broad spectrum of the carnival industry to draw general
conclusions. Correspondingly, it may be difficult to make
quantitative predictions. Consequently, because qualitative
measuring does not yield what is considered hard substantive
data, analysis derived can be labeled as anecdotal and merely
descriptive.
An All-Inclusive Approach to Measuring the Economics of
Carnival
And so, it is fair to suggest that effective economic analysis of
carnival requires the engagement of both quantitative and
See for example Chapter 5 Qualitative Research in Mark Finn et. al.
(2000) Tourism & Leisure Research Methods: Data Collection, Analysis and
Interpretation. England: Longman.
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PAPER
Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

qualitative measuring16. Given the weaknesses inherent in both


approaches, their combined use can allow for the maximization
of their strengths and the minimization of their limitations.
Qualitative data gathering techniques such as observation and
interviewing can be used to validate numerical data collected,
while qualitative analysis can be strengthened with the
incorporation of numerical data. Critical to all of this is the ability
and willingness to triangulate, since the use of multiple methods
can allow the researcher to see various dimensions of the same
issue. Investigations based on quantitative measuring can be
checked against findings derived from qualitative measuring in
order to gather a relatively complete picture of analysis. The
complementary use of the approaches therefore gives
opportunity for a broader range of issues to be analysed as well
as a more holistic assessment.
Looking specifically at the economic analysis of carnival, it is
likely that many of the qualitative measures and techniques
previously mentioned can be used in concert with various
quantitative measuring techniques. Case studies with numerical
data on the dollar value of investment, revue earned, and
employment levels for instance, can be used to illustrate and
assess the performance of specific sectors such as steelpan
manufacturers, mas designers, and fete promoters as a means
of developing industry benchmarks. Historical analysis and
situational analysis can augment numerical data gathered to
develop a profile of the carnival industrys performance over a
period of time, as well as give insight into the range of factors
that impact on industry performance. Situational analysis is also
useful for identifying the key prospects and challenges for the
sustainability of the industry. Methods such as observation,
interviews and focus groups are considered superior to other
The blending of the two approaches is not new to research in the social
sciences. For a brief discussion see for example, Chapter 1 Introduction in
Mark Finn et. al. (2000) Tourism & Leisure Research Methods: Data
Collection, Analysis and Interpretation. England: Longman. For greater
detail, refer to A. Bryman (1988) Quantity and Quality in Social Research,
London: Routledge.
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Counting (on) the Economics of Carnival
By Jo-anne Tull
Friday May 1st 2009

methods of data collection for describing actual behavior in a


given situation and can be used to triangulate numerical data
for patron and consumer profiles; visitor profiles; consumer
trends; and demographic analysis to name a few.
What then is the use of all of this? Whereas analysis derived
from the exclusive use of one approach may have limited impact
and generate select interest from carnival stakeholders and the
wider society, the combined all-inclusive approach widens the
opportunities for use of the research. Qualitative measuring
requires engagement with many of the industrys stakeholders
and as such provides a way of achieving buy-in by the
stakeholders in the study before its completion. Quantitative
measuring renders analysis that is likely to satisfy the needs of
policy makers and technocrats. Such needs can therefore be
addressed simultaneously in one study, thereby strengthening
the validity and credibility of the research. Implicit in this
approach is the opportunity for strategic planning and
forecasting, which then gives impetus for policy formulation.
These avenues indicate that there is much to be gained from a
holistic approach to the economic analysis of carnival, so that
economic measuring can truly begin to count and make a
notable impact on the industrial development of carnival.
________