Caribbean cricket is now being graced with the involvement of two Presidents both with the common background of having served as Tourism Ministers for their respective countries, President Dr Irfaan Ali of Guyana and Cricket West Indies Ricky Skerritt of St. Kitts. In terms of the application of their respective previous ministerial experience to the further promotion of Caribbean tourism, however, President Ali has of late been providing Mr. Skerritt with master to novice-like schooling to such a degree that it has become yet another source of embarrassment to the latter’s CWI presidency.
One of the many refreshingly innovative approaches President Ali has brought to his performance of duties as Guyana’s head-of-state has been the recognition and invigorating pursuit of the full realization of Caribbean cricket’s immense tourism-generating potential. By comparison, Ricky Skerritt’s CWI presidential tenure has been most disappointingly that of the spearhead of an administration that can now justifiably be accused of having hindered, if not totally undermined, the achievement of any such similar objective. That of West Indies cricket to be a significant contributor to further improving and increasing the tourism economy welfare of its Caribbean member territories.
Irrefutable evidence of the disparities between the positive impacts on Caribbean tourism of the respective accomplishments of Dr Ali and President Skerrit has become glaringly obvious for all to see.
One of the very first highly strategic initiatives President Ali sought to pursue soon after he had assumed Guyana’s presidential reins was the acquisition of hosting rights for matches in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), now internationally recognized as “the biggest party in sport!” As a result of President Ali’s vision, Guyana subsequently secured hosting rights for matches in the CPL preliminary round, playoffs, semi-finals and final on a three-year 2022-2024 contract.
Not content with just the mere acquisition of the prestigious CPL rights, President Ali then went a step further by announcing his government’s intended establishment of an annual Cricket Carnival to be held in conjunction with Guyana’s annual hosting of its scheduled matches. President Ali’s conceptual vision for the Cricket Carnival’s establishment featuring the very best of culture, cuisine and music from not just Guyana mind you, but rather also CPL’s other participating Caribbean territories: Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, as well as Trinidad & Tobago, was a masterstroke of breathtaking brilliance.
The immediate most positive results of Dr. Ali’s innovative CPL strategy have been both numerous and overly impressive. Guyana’s hosted daytime CPL matches, typically involving two of the other competing teams, have been graced by the presence of hundreds of schoolchildren. Their gleeful attendance has provided a measurable degree of most welcomed joyous atmosphere to the on-field proceedings, which otherwise would have played out against a morgue-like sterile backdrop of otherwise empty stands.
Hero CPL 2022 Guyana-hosted evening matches involving the ever-surging local Amazon Warriors have by contrast been characterized by stands jam-packed with thousands of spectators proudly clad in team shirts, joyously waving purchased national and franchise flags. Noticeably, President Ali himself, has been most admirably seated in the stands next to and among his people. Not up in some corporate hospitality suite as televised photos of CWI President Ricky Skerritt have shown by contrast invariably. An object lesson in demonstrated humility to go along with those of the administered tourism-related schooling!
No sooner had Guyana’s 2022 hosting been announced, the country’s admittedly currently small hotel occupancy was just as quickly filled through expressions of interest particularly from overseas, Canada and US-based Guyanese seeking to go home to witness the matches in person. Yet another provided tourism educational lesson, on the benefits of embracing rather than ignoring the immense active spectator interest of overseas-based fans.
While President Ali has with his refreshingly innovative initiatives been providing an ever-increasing stimulation of cricket-generated tourism, President Skerritt’s CWI has seemingly been hell bent on traveling in an opposite direction. Unconscionable ticket prices for Caribbean-hosted matches, against a backdrop of their nonexistent promotion, as well as entirely missed further marketing opportunities have instead been the characteristics of the Skerritt-led CWI during the past three years. The most recent poignant example of which has been CWI’s abysmally shoddy planning of this year’s 2022 edition of its annual CG Insurance Super50 tournament.
As indicated by CWI’s Operations Manager, Roland Holder, during his guest appearance on last Tuesday’s September 20 Mason & Guest Radio Show, the tournament dates, venues, and participating teams for this year’s 2022 Annual Super50 tournament will be announced shortly. Approximately, just one month before the tournament’s typically November scheduled staging.
Holder’s pathetic explanation for the protracted delay in the announcement of the tournament information was that of it having been caused by the encountered logistic issues concerning organizing the movement of players and associated personnel because of varying flight schedules. Whereas CPL could have somehow managed to successfully organize the movement of players of six participating teams, officials, commentators, and not to mention television crews and equipment to and from four hosting venues within a month, it has apparently taken CWI almost an entire year to figure out how to do so!
The idea of striking an agreement with Caribbean Airlines as a regional carrier, owned as it is by the Government Trinidad & Tobago Government the Prime Ministerial head of which Keith Rowley is as staunch a supporter of West Indies cricket as you could ever find, for the related annual transportation of Super50 related personnel, appears to have been rocket science for Holder and the other Skerritt-led CWI administrators. By contrast, CPL and Caribbean Airlines seemingly long since brokered exactly such a deal, as evidenced by the airline’s continued annual involvement as one of the tournament’s major sponsors.
In further, very stark contrast to the globally televised images of stands packed with team-shirt-wearing, flag-waving fans of CPL’s Guyana Amazon Warriors, St Kitts Patriots, St Lucia Kings and T&T Knight Riders, CWI’s Super5o matches have been invariably played in front of empty stands occupied by mere handfuls of spectators. More importantly, the corresponding participating six CWI Super50 franchises have not even been scratching the surface of their respective revenue-generating potential.
According to its FaceBook Page, CWI currently has well over 2.25 million fans worldwide. Yet there has never been evidence provided of any marketing efforts towards the respective loyalties of such fans by means of encouraging them to purchase team shirts representative of their national franchises.
Announcing the details of an “annual” annual tournament mere weeks before its scheduled commencement is also obviously not the best means of encouraging visits from overseas-based fans of the respective participating Super50 franchises. That, unfortunately, has not only been the hallmark of CWI’s annual planning, or lack thereof, but also further evidence of its apparent oblivion to the tourism-generating potential of properly promoted tournaments.
Even worse, this year’s Super50 will reportedly only feature eight Caribbean-based teams, the six participating franchises from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, the Leeward and Windwards Islands, as well as squads representative of CWI’s U23 and Combined Campuses players. In contrast to the tournament’s 2019 Pre-Covid edition, for this year there will inexplicably be no participation by either Canada or the United States. The respective resident populations of which now include hundreds of thousands of ardent Caribbean cricket-oriented fans, not to mention the millions of others of even more fervent followers who hail from South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
CWI has this year completely ignored the very tangible significantly sizeable target market of just the family, friends and followers of the Canadian and US teams, who with proper advanced planning could just as easily have been encouraged to travel to the Caribbean to attend Super50 matches in support of their respective national teams, as the hundreds who have attended Guyana’s hosted CPL matches. An oversight of monumental proportions.
Not the least bit unexpected though from the Skerritt-led CWI. The Caribbean-tourism generating shortcomings of which have been as contrastingly dark to the shining brilliance of Guyana President Ali’s stimulating initiatives as night is to day!
About The Writer: Guyana-born, Toronto-based, Tony McWatt is the Publisher of both the WI Wickets and Wickets/monthly online cricket magazines that are respectively targeted toward Caribbean and Canadian readers. He is also the only son of the former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.