Guest Editorial: What if there was no Costa Maya Festival?
Sunday, August 12th, 2012
Submitted by Jorge Aldana
Last week I had several friends and family members come over from the mainland to visit, enjoy and spend their money in San Pedro Town for the 20th annual Costa Maya Festival. Most of them spent three nights at a hotel, dined and consumed drinks at several establishments and had a fantastic time at the festival. At some point, I had to tell some other friends that I was not into the business of booking hotels, because it was so difficult and frustrating to locate rooms by Thursday. Most, if not all of the golf carts were rented out – we could not get one by Friday morning.
People came in by the hundreds through the local water taxis and airlines during the course of the week. Some businesses even went ahead and organized their own functions, taking advantage of the crowd that was attracted to the island for the Costa Maya Festival, some even taking advantage of the name of the festival without stepping up to be a sponsor.
It felt very good to know that everyone was making money; the hotels, the restaurants, the food stands, the bars, the water taxis and the airlines. Everyone was happy that Costa Maya provided some cash for them in the slow season. And that was exactly what the Costa Maya Festival was envisioned to do for the island when it started 20 years ago as the Sea and Air Festival. But there is a flip side of that coin that vexes the heck out of me.
The Costa Maya Festival Committee Members work their butts off for months to come up with the best plan for the annual event. Be it local, national or international talents, the fact is that at least 120 artists perform on the stage annually. It takes months of coordination to bring the entertainers to the island and give to the visitors and residents the best possible show each year. The Costa Maya Festival Committee has to find food, accommodations and arrange for their travelling expenses. In addition most of them are paid to perform on stage. There are a lot of people contributing of their time to see that the festival is successful. The San Pedro Sun for example, gives its support to see that the festival is successful. We do it because we understand that if the Costa Maya festival is successful, so will most businesses on the island. Having more people on the island means more money for the local economy, especially during the current slow tourist season.
But during the course of this week I stopped to ponder on a statement made by Milo Paz, one of the committee members for the Costa Maya Festival. “What if there was no Costa Maya Festival?” The question was asked because the committee is not getting the support from the community; the same community that is making the big bucks from the Costa Maya publicity. As I understand it, this was the worst year when it came to sponsorship and support from the local business sector. If only all the businesses would understand that if there is no Costa Maya Festival next year, it would mean NO extra business for them in the first week of August.
It has been one handful of businesses that recognizes the importance and impact that the Costa Maya Festival has on the local economy. It has been the same group of businesses that have been supportive of the festival every year. But they are not the only ones making money off the festival. When I saw the list of sponsors scrolling down at the festival grounds, I didn’t see names of the hotels and the restaurants that my friends were patronizing. I didn’t see many of the names of the hotels and resorts that were totally booked. Many of the cart rental places were not on the list either. Let’s also talk attendance: this is a local event that should be enjoyed by residents of La Isla Bonita, and that includes the ex-pat community. When we looked around, where were they? Many of them own businesses that were benefitting from the festival, yet, only a handful bought their tickets and were present to enjoy one of the cultural highlights of the community they live in.
I believe that it is just right that if you own a business on the island and benefit from the Costa Maya Festival directly or indirectly, you should be generous in giving back to the committee and see that it is successful. After all, if the festival is successful, your business will also be successful and the entire island will be as well. Congratulations to all those businesses that want the best for this island! Here’s hoping others will step up and ensure that this long-lived (20 years) tradition continues, not only for the cultural benefit, but for the economic boost our community enjoys every August.